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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Allegretto in B flat major, WoO 39 (1812) [6:14]
Franz SCHUBERT (1787-1828)
Adagio in E flat, D897 ‘Notturno’ (1827) [9:13]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63 (1847) [27:34]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17 (1846) [25:19]
The Mannes-Gimpel-Silva Trio
rec. 1951-1953
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1601 [68:22]

The two substantial chamber works which form the core of this release are piano trios by husband and wife Robert and Clara Schumann. The latter came first, penned over the summer of 1846 when Clara was pregnant with her fourth child and unable to tour, so she had some time on her hands. This delightfully crafted work was the result, very much suffused with echoes of her husband’s music and that of Mendelssohn. A purposeful opening movement is followed by a sunny, tuneful Scherzo. Clara was blessed with great melodic gifts, and this is most evident in the ardent Andante. Gimpel’s rich tone and instinctive phrasing really come into their own here. He is certainly favoured in the recording balance. The finale is cast with darker elements and reveals an expert hand at counterpoint. Robert must have thought highly of his wife’s achievement, as the work provoked him to compose his own Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63 the following year.

The Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor was Robert’s first foray into the genre (he composed three in all). At the time, he was working on his opera Genoveva. 1847 was one of grief and tragedy for the Schumanns. Not only did they suffer the loss of their son Emil in infancy, but also were deeply affected by the unexpected deaths of Fanny Mendelssohn in May and her brother Felix in November; Schumann would act as pall-bearer at Felix’s funeral. All of this pain finds its way into the Trio. There is turbulence and anxiety in the first movement, and melancholy and sadness in the third movement – a tragic utterance if ever there was one. This is somewhat assuaged by the second movement’s dotted rhythms, which romp along with rhythmic buoyancy, and a finale played mit Feuer. The Mannes-Gimpel-Silva Trio capture the very essence of the work.

Two fillers are included. Beethoven’s Allegretto for Piano Trio in B flat WoO 39 is no great shakes inspirationally. I much prefer the other short work on the disc, Schubert's Notturno. It is also in the best sound, with more overall bloom and clarity. The ensemble fully savour the expressive lyricism of the score in this very heartfelt performance.

There is not much information available about this ensemble. All I could discover is that it was originally formed by pianist Leopold Mannes in 1948 as the “Mannes Trio”, with the violinist Vittorio Brero and cellist Luigi Silva. After two seasons Brero was replaced by Bronislaw Gimpel, and the group became known as the Mannes-Gimpel-Silva Trio. This formation only lasted until 1955, when Gimpel withdrew and Mannes retired.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf



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