March 2005

A passionate approach to Mendelssohn pays dividends for this debut CD

Mendelssohn Piano Trios - Nos 1 & 2
Claremont Trio (Donna Kwong pf Emily Bruskin vn Julia Bruskin vc)
Arabesque Z6786
Selected comparison - Beaux Arts Trio (2/04R) (PHIL) 475 171 2PC4

Thankfully, today's performers seem to have forgotten about the false characterisation, prevalent 50 years ago, of Mendelssohn as a composer of pretty, slightly sentimental music. The Claremont Trio, a young group from the US who have recently won the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award, give large-scale performances, with a sweeping, Romantic sense of space, and strong dramatic contrasts.

The incessant piano figuration in the first movement of the first trio isn't just decorative; Donna Kwong's virtuoso approach gives it a strongly passionate character—Mendelssohn even appears in places as a precursor of Rachmaninov. In both trios, the Claremont

enters with conviction into Mendelssohn's emotional world. Even the Beaux Arts Trio's fine account of No 2's first movement seems rather staid by the side of the Claremont's con fuoco approach. I have one or two criticisms—the rising ninth that starts the main theme of No 2's finale inspires a rubato that threatens to become excessive, and Emily Bruskin, perfect mistress of the expressive portamento, does occasionally slide up to a note where a clean attack would be more appropriate. But these things are of little consequence in the context of such vital, imaginative playing.

Emily and Julia Bruskin, who are twins, match each other perfectly, with tone of a strikingly vocal quality; their duetting in No 2's Andante is quite beautiful. Both a fine recording that shows up the group's wide range of tone colour and perceptive booklet-notes by Julia Bruskin contribute to an extremely auspicious debut.

—Duncan Druce