Mendelssohn Piano Trios no. 1 in D minor op. 49 & no. 2 in C minor op.66
Arabesque Recordings Z6786
Mendelssohn's D minor Piano Trio, with its brilliant yet mellifluously playable string writing makes it a particular favourite with gifted amateurs, particularly the beguiling slow movement with its easy flow of innocent melody. Yet the relatively neglected C minor Trio is in many ways the finer piece, far less inclined to fall back on cliché.
I have long admired the classic Stern-Rose-Istonmin accounts (CBS/Sony) from the 1960's, although their physically imposing style and reluctance to venture much below mezzo-piano underplays the child-like purity of Mendelssohn's inspiration. It is this vital aspect that the all-female Claremont Trio (winners of the first Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award in 2003) brings to the surface. These are readings of touching innocence and purity, tantalizingly suggesting a sheltered composer whose astonishing ability to conjure
up various emotional states in music outstripped his actual experience of them. Whereas the likes of Beethoven or Mahler relished the dark side of human nature on occasion, when Mendelssohn turns Sturm und Drang he invariably sounds like someone running scared, desperately searching for a soothing second subject.
The Claremont Trio thrillingly captures the changeability of the outer movements, relishing the stern rhetoric with the rare ability to relax glowingly when all around is anguished and frenetic. The scherzos go off like champagne corks, effervescent in the D minor and all gossamer lightness in the Midsummer Night's Dream reference of the C minor.