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REVIEW

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Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, op. 32 (1894) [32:43]
Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor, op. 73 (1905) [33:14]
Wilkomirski Trio (Łukasz Trepczyński (piano), Celina Kotz (violin), Maciej Kułakowski (cello))
rec. April-June 2016, Concert Hall, Krysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music, Lusławice, Poland
DUX 1320 [65:58]

This is the first recording for this trio of well-credentialed young Polish musicians. They have adopted, with the Wilkomirski family’s permission, the name of a very long-lived Polish trio. The choice of the two Arensky trios for their debut is not an obvious one, and for that, we should be grateful. I reviewed another debut recording of a young Polish trio - the Daroch - on Dux last year. They opted for very standard repertoire indeed - the Dvorak Dumky and the Ravel, as well as the Debussy - and I remarked then that I wondered who would purchase it. The Wilkomirskis have given themselves a much better chance of success here, I feel.

The D minor trio is, far and away, Arensky’s most popular work, and with good reason. It overflows with a torrent of glorious melodies and infectious rhythms. Part way through the first movement of this recording, I thought I would be writing a rather critical review, as there were some awkward moments and a rather lumpen approach that I wasn’t finding at all satisfactory. However, things improved markedly in the Scherzo, and by the end, I was enjoying the performance greatly. What a shame about the first seven minutes or so. There are, of course, numerous outstanding performances of this trio, Trio Wanderer being perhaps the best.

The F minor trio is the ugly duckling of the pair, not blessed with those melodies that make the D minor one of the most beautiful in the trio catalogue. The Second is, however, still a fine work; it’s just that you need to give it time to reveal its qualities. It finishes with a theme and variations movement, which is always a good thing with Arensky. There are aren’t many recordings of it, and all of them feature this same coupling. The best by some distance is that of the Beaux Arts Trio, but it is no longer available separately, only in a very large boxset. This has rather left the field wide open, as none of the other options are particularly good. I refer you to my comments on these in my Trio Survey, but suffice to say that I feel that the Wilkomirskis give a reading that makes a very good case for this under-appreciated work. Despite being a minute slower than the Leopold Trio (Hyperion), the Wilkomirskis imbue the work with greater drama and intensity.

Of the performers, I am very impressed by the cellist particularly, whose tone is quite glorious. The booklet notes, in Polish and English, are beefed out by a biography of the Wilkomirski family, which is in fact more extensive than the section on Arensky and the trios. The sound is all one could ask for.

Given the paucity of options for the second trio, this new release definitely has its attractions.

David Barker

 

 



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