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Felix Mendelssohn

Piano Trios Nos 1 and 2

No 1 in D minor Op 49 [28'22"] Molto allegro agitato [9'31"] Andante con moto tranquillo [6'40"] Scherzo: Leggiero e vivace [3'45"] Finale: Allegro assai appassionato [8'26"]

No 2 in C minor Op 66 [28'40"] Allegro energico e fuoco [10'43"] Andante espressivo [6'48"] Scherzo: Molto allegro quasi presto [3'32"] Finale: Allegro appassionato [7'36"]

The Gould Piano Trio Lucy Gould, Violin; Martin Storey, Cello; Benjamin Frith, Piano

Recorded at Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk on 5-6 April 2000 Naxos 8.555063 [57'02"]

Mendelssohn's chamber music has been getting much greater coverage in recent years than it did for a long time. For many years considered somewhat effeminate and unimaginative, the chamber works were well overdue for reappraisal, and today it is remarkable that such opinions could ever have held sway about what is undoubtedly some of the finest chamber music of the early 19th century.

This new disc is a magnificent recording of the always-admirable Gould Piano Trio in very fine form indeed. Still a comparatively new ensemble, the Gould Trio's ensemble playing has given cause for comment ever since they first came to prominence. A very tight ensemble, but one with a real passion and fire for what they play, this sense of conviction is apparent from the outset of this disc. Without a doubt this is aided by the quality of the recording, which here is quite outstanding. The clarity with which the piano has been captured is particularly noteworthy. Benjamin Frith's playing ranges widely across the spectrum of colour from the most delicate pastel pianissimos to searing fortes and the recording has caught these excellently without allowing the piano to dominate the foreground. In particular the gravity of the bass end is most impressive, but there is never any sense of 'boom', only of 'weight'. The very opening of the first track brings forth a warmly full cello sound and a violin that obviously provides the lead to the texture, but without any brittleness in the recorded sound. This is the way recordings of chamber music should sound - it is as if the listener is sitting there with the performers.

The Scherzo of the D minor trio provides another moment of unadulterated listening pleasure, reminiscent of Mendelssohn's music for A midsummer Night's Dream this bristles with energy and purpose in the most joyful of ways.

The second trio, in C minor, was composed only two years before Mendelssohn's death and shows the composer in the full maturity that he was for so long thought never to have possessed. The energetic first movement, over 10 minutes long, finds rich expression in the hands of these performers; well aware of the architectural scope of the movement and prepared to maintain the energy levels from beginning to end. This energy is only briefly replaced in the slow movement, although the minor tonality still allows a sense of the underlying restlessness to be apparent. The scherzo shows the trio at their most brilliantly virtuosic and the power of the final rondo again exploits the quality of the recording.

This is one of the most enjoyable discs of 19th century chamber music that this reviewer has heard for a long time, and at Naxos's budget price there is simply no excuse for not owning it. Quite outstanding in every respect.

(c) Peter Wells 2001

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