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Ionarts-at-Large: Trio Wanderer in Romantic Redemption

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J.Haydn, Complete Piano Trios,
Beaux Arts Trio

The Trio Wanderer is one of the ARD International Music Competition Prize Winner alumni that make that competition’s name in the chamber music field quite so prestigious. Their recordings (Best of 2009 here, Best of 2012 here, Messiaen) are of library-building quality, rivaled only by the Beaux Arts Trio and the Florestan Trio. In short: worth a trip to the Musikverein’s Brahms-Saal even if that isn’t my favorite chamber venue in Vienna. (Shaped like a coffin and just a little less lively.) Snark aside, it’s not that bad a place to hear Haydn, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. Nor is it surprising to hear such an ultra-conventional program there, down to the abuse of glorious Haydn as the warm-up piece. (Complauding™*!)

And the Haydn Trio No.43 in C (the Vienna venues every only list Haydn by the incredibly useless Hoboken numbers, as if “Hob.XV/27” was particularly meaningful to everyone but a musicologist with not much of a social life) did indeed sound like a warm-up, sadly. It came and went—with a Presto Finale along the way that was nice for having tried to raise the game, but it veered... and instead of becoming lively by way of extreme speeds it just became comic*. Which is not the same as humor—a distinction all too easily detected in Haydn.

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R.Schumann, Piano Trios,
Florestran Trio

Haydn needs and deserves better. In that light, it was almost a pity that the Schumann Trio No.1, op.50, was so immediately, discernably better—darkly flowing, with calm depth amid emotional upheaval, totally cohesive, enriched by a great variety of tonal colors and expressive zest—because it underscored the lamentable stereotype of Haydn being maybe perfectly nice and all, but not quite up to the great stuff that came later. No! Play Haydn better, damned, and make a point of showing that there is great chamber music besides Haydn but none (or not much and not by much) that is greater, more uplifting, more musical, more entertaining, better for the soul. It says a lot about the saucy and propelling second Schumann movement the Trio Wanderer delivered, that it nearly blotted out my sadness about the missed Haydn-opportunity.

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P.I.Tchaikovsky & Arensky, Piano Trios,
Trio Wanderer
Harmonia Mundi

The Tchaikovsky Piano Trio seemed to want to prove a point about the Trio Wanderer being more at home in heft and romantic oompf than classical wit. (I wouldn’t subscribe to that, except for this evening.) It was a meaty success right out of the grate. A dense and busy gorgeousness of music is hurled at the listener. It’s a lot of it and lasts for a long time and as in most long works, the mind might occasionally wander and wonder what a young Anton Webern might have made of the material. But then why not indulge every once in a while, and enjoy all the tempting calories that Tchaikovsky dishes out so liberally and without inhibition. Pianist Vincent Coq’s terrific bell-like playing in the second movement, which comes at the listener in lighter, folksier ways, was something to behold, before the all-stops-pulled finale, rousing and in the best Tchaikovsky manner interminable. The Wanderer Trio certainly gave generously and after the two-partite monster-trio was over they allowed themselves to be applauded into doling out an encore-helping: “from Dvořák, the last Dumka of the Dumky Trio.” That theme just about whistled itself, all the satisfied way home.

(* Bit the same on their recording, unfortunately. Too often this sounds rushed. The Beaux Arts Trio make it sound coy, light and witty—such stuff is right up Menahem Pressler’s sleeve!—and manage still to be the go-to recording after all these years.)

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