The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: A welcome exploration of piano trios by the two Schumanns
Musicians: Swiss Piano Trio
Composer: C. Schumann, R. Schumann
Listening to this performance of Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio, one can well understand why it was so favourably embraced by the music critics of her time. The Swiss Piano Trio’s bold opening sets the scene for a highly charged account of the Allegro moderato first movement, and the players’ technical excellence encompasses a tonal weight without ever compromising the required inner transparency. Having brought a gentle joy to the scherzo, they suffuse the slow movement’s duo for violin and cello with warmth and refined elegance. Maybe Clara’s fugal section of the finale shows more academic rectitude than inspiration, but in the closing pages she and the performers return to the fervent mood of the work’s opening.
The Swiss players also threaten to dislodge my long-held recommendation of the Florestan Trio’s recordings of Robert Schumann’s piano trios (Hyperion). They give the dynamic markings in both of his works here their full breadth and the interpretations are very highly detailed. Although the fast closing passage of the third movement of the op.110 Trio sounds rather contrived, this is otherwise a gorgeous performance, with unabated passion in the appropriate moments of the outer movements. The sound quality is superb, with the performers avoiding the piano’s domination in the four Fantasiestücke that so often occurs on disc.