MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Brahms trios 99251
Support us financially by purchasing from

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Piano Trio No 1 in B major, Op 8 (1854; revised version 1889)
Piano Trio No 2 in C major, Op 87 (1882)
Piano Trio No 3 in C minor, Op 101 (1886)
Clarinet (or Viola) Trio in A minor, Op 114 (version for viola) (1891)
Thomas Albertus Irnberger (violin, viola), Lilya Zilberstein (piano), David Geringas (cello)
rec. 2021, Mozart-Saal, Salzburg, Austria
Reviewed in surround.
GRAMOLA 99251 SACD [2 discs:112]

The promotional material for this release refers to the “complete recording of Johannes Brahms' piano trios”. But the question “how many Brahms piano trios are there?” has more than one ‘right’ answer. For the absolute purist the answer is three, the published numbered ones for the defining combination of piano, violin and cello found here. But the first one, his Op 8, was heavily revised thirty-five years after its first publication. Brahms kept exactly the same opus number (no Opus 8a) though both versions remained in circulation. But the revision was so extensive it reduced a fifty-minute work to a thirty-five minute one, so there is an unresolved argument about whether “Opus Eight” refers to one work or two. The shorter later version is the one recorded here, but at least one available recording of the “complete Brahms piano trios” offers both. There is also the A major trio discovered in 1924, whose composer is uncertain but which is usually attributed to Brahms, which has been recorded alongside the numbered trios before. And there is the clarinet (or viola) trio, which Brahms intended as dual purpose from the outset, and which appears on this issue in its viola version.

The revised version of 1889 of the Piano Trio No 1 Op 8 brings it closer in time to the other two numbered trios and the late Viola Trio. So we are listening to the later Brahms throughout both discs, as the revised First Trio is one where the older experienced composer lent his younger self a substantial helping hand, and is the version almost invariably performed. The performers here form a sort of “supergroup”, brought together by violinist and violist Thomas Albertus Irnberger for this recording project on Gramola, the Vienna-based company for which he has made many solo and chamber recordings.

The First Piano Trio makes a splendid start. This is still the early Romantic Brahms, and the opening theme is stirring, the whole movement carrying the listener along in its passionate flow. The scherzo is lively and bright, the players relaxing slightly into its fine trio tune, piano espressivo e legato as marked, noble and enchanting. The Adagio sings solemnly, and if the violin has a momentary slight imprecision of intonation at the high pp in bar 25, it is the only one on the disc. The “Finale” is no longer so called in the revision, perhaps because over the intervening years that label had come to imply a more lively summation than we find in this restless “Allegro”. It still makes a fitting conclusion and is well performed here.

The Piano Trio No 2 is apparently the only extended work the composer designated as “in C”, apart from his Op 1 Piano Sonata. That implied centrality of its musical substance and manners are borne out. In much the first movement the violin and cello play together, to balance the piano better perhaps, and Irnberger and Geringas sound well blended, while Lilya Zilberstein delivers the required richness and splendour of the piano part. In the theme and variations of the slow movement, when the fourth variation switches to A major and 6/8, (track 6, 5:10), the string players observe their dolce marking sweetly enough without becoming saccharine. The scherzo is marked presto, made the more challenging by the addition of pp sempre e leggiero (“always very quiet and light”). This account feels to me a bit steady for a presto, and there 5:05 duration is longer than the 4:20 – 4:40 several others take.

The lovely Piano Trio No 3 is another success, the first movement’s taut construction served by a dramatic, and for the delightful second subject, lyrically relaxed approach. The rather tenebrous presto non assai scherzo, with its muted strings, is more persuasive than the presto of Trio No 2. The Andante is properly grazioso and the rhythmic trickiness of the final Allegro molto in 6/8 neatly overcome by the alert responses of these musicians.

For the Viola Trio Irnberger swaps his violin for a viola, and seems equally adept on the larger instrument. This option might have been intended to exploit the market potential beyond that for the handful of good clarinettists around before Brahms gave them four of his late works to play. But it is quite viable musically, and earns it place on this set with a performance which is sensitive to the balance issues and textural opportunities occasioned by the changed instrumentation. No-one who did not know the clarinet version would surmise its existence, as the viola version has its own appeal and independent validity, not least as heard here played with such commitment and skill.

In summary, a fine set with excellent performances of all four works in good SACD sound, and a useful booklet note. If the Viola Trio appeals as the addition to the three piano trios with violin, this will serve very well indeed. Other sets add the Clarinet Trio or Horn Trio, or even the A major piano trio which might be by Brahms or by anon. My own SACD benchmark is the Trio Testore (Audite, 2013), not least because adds the nearly 50 minute original version of the First Piano Trio, not so easy to find otherwise. They have been together over twenty years so have long familiarity with the repertoire compared to a group brought together for a recording project. There is also a good pair of SACDs from Guarneri Trio Prague (Praga 2007 and 2010), which adds the “posthumous” A major trio.

But this programme from Gramola might even be unique, certainly on SACD. Most recordings of the Viola Trio, which is not that common anyway, couple it with the viola arrangements of Brahms’s two late clarinet sonatas. But if you want it paired with the three piano trios, you will find this very satisfying.

Roy Westbrook

Previous review: Daniel Floyd (August 2022)

Published: October 24, 2022

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing