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George ENESCU (1881–1955)
Piano Trio No. 1 in G minor (1897) [28:41]
Anton ARENSKY (1861–1906)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 (1894) [33:25]
Trio Enescu (Gabriele Gylyte (piano), Alina Armonas-Tambrea (violin), Edvardas Armonas (cello))
rec. February and April, 2016, Loge “Zur Einigkeit,” Frankfurt am Main, Germany
GENUIN GEN16447 [62:07]

On the surface, combining these two first essays in the genre, written three years apart, is a good idea. They are both very clearly products of the nineteenth century, Romantic and overflowing with lovely melodies. Admittedly, there is a significant difference between the two composers: Enescu a teenager, just beginning his career and yet to find his mature style, Arensky in his thirties, his style well established, and with this work arguably his finest, certainly far and away his most recorded.

This completes the set of Enescu trios for the eponymous ensemble: they recorded the mature A minor trio and Serenade Lointaine a couple of years ago for Genuin. While there is not a full review of the recording on this site, I did mention it in my Piano Trio survey, rating their performance of the A minor as the pick of the few available.

With the Schumannesque G minor, the field is even narrower: this is only the second recording that I can find. The other, by the Brancusi Trio on Zig Zag Territoires, includes all three works, making it considerably better value. There is a marked difference in tempos and style between the two: the Brancusis are almost two and a half minutes faster, injecting a great deal of energy into their performance. This is surprising, as the opposite applied in the A minor trio, where Trio Enescu were quicker, more dramatic and energetic. In the G minor here, they are smoother than their competitors, and given the work is the product of a teenager, perhaps the extra energy is better. Nevertheless, in isolation, this is a fine performance of a work that I actually prefer to the mature one.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Arensky, one of my favourite trios. It has more than thirty recordings, and while I can’t claim to have heard them all, this is not one of the better ones. The first movement lacks the singing qualities I hear in the Beaux Arts Trio, and the Scherzo misses the sparkle given by the Trio Wanderer (Harmonia Mundi) and Spectrum Concerts Berlin (Naxos), for example. Trio Enescu seem to have missed the essential nature of the work.

There is no doubting the basic quality of their playing. I have an aversion to harshness in the strings, and there is never any hint of that here. The sound quality is natural and clean, without being too close, and the notes are well written. If you bought the first volume, you will probably want this to complete your Enescu set.

David Barker



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