"This recording is a safe recommendation"
"Johannes Brahms finished the first version of Piano Trio, Op 8 in B major in January 1854, three months after meeting Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf. Schumann urged the 20-year-old Brahms to publish the first ten of his Opus numbers, including Op 8. The mature Brahms saw his youthful works critically but revised and republished only Op 8 (1889), confusingly with the same Opus number as the original version of 35 years earlier. The performers on the present recording have chosen the revised version.
Brahms completed his second Piano Trio, Op 87 in C major during the summer of 1882 while he was in Bad Ischl. The first movement was composed in 1880 and met with incomprehension among his friends, including Clara Schumann, who only liked the C minor Andante second movement. The work ends with a restless Finale. Allegro giocoso in the home key of C major.
Brahms wrote his melancholy, autumnal Piano Trio, Op 101 in C minor during his stay in Hofstetten near Thun, Switzerland in 1886. During this productive summer, Brahms also finished his energetic, robust second Cello Sonata, Op 99 and his dreamy, songlike second Violin Sonata, Op 100. In its concise first movement Allegro energico, the Piano Trio, Op 101 contains a secondary theme that resembles a Viennese waltz. The two inner movements are a sombre Presto assai and a serene Andante grazioso, while the vigorous Finale: Allegro molto is infused with Hungarian-inspired folk-like themes.
The Trio in A minor, Op 114 was conceived initially for the clarinet, but Brahms recognised that this part could be played equally well on viola and, therefore, sanctioned this instrument as an alternative. Like many of Brahms’s late compositions, the A minor Trio has an atmosphere of resignation and regret for unfulfilled desires (e.g. marriage) in his life. The opening cello theme gives a feeling of loneliness that is joined by the viola, which interjects a feeling of longing, and the piano, which tries to introduce a rhythmic drive but sinks back into languor. The second movement Adagio deepens the sombre mood, while the Andantino grazioso third movement is reminiscent of a waltz, which serves as a reminder of his friendship with Johann Strauss II. Hungarian music pervades the final Allegro, which brings this dark work to a rustic conclusion.
The performers have a sense of partnership in which no musician dominates the others, except for moments when Brahms prescribed that a particular instrument should take the lead. The dual-layer SACD provides an intimate if slightly resonant acoustic in which an astonishing amount of detail can be heard. My comments pertain to the two-channel version, which I enjoyed on my standard CD player. This recording is a safe recommendation that can be savoured along with the classic accounts by the Beaux Arts Trio. The packaging is attractive, but the booklet is glued into the centre of a glossy cardboard triptych; a jewel case would ensure greater durability for this document of excellent music making."