Perfectly judged, poised ensemble in lovingly sculpted French piano trios

Sitkovetsky Trio: Ravel, Saint-Saëns

Sitkovetsky Trio: Ravel, Saint-Saëns

The Strad Issue
: September 2021

Description: Perfectly judged, poised ensemble in lovingly sculpted French piano trios

Musicians: Sitkovetsky Trio

Works: Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor. Saint-Saëns: Piano Trio no.2 in E minor op.92

Catalogue number: BIS BIS-2219 (hybrid SACD)

The Sitkovetsky Trio really has the measure of Ravel’s Trio, from the impeccable octaves in the sultry first entry of violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and cellist Isang Enders to the work’s fiery, trill-laden conclusion. Ensemble, in this ideally balanced St George’s Brandon Hill recording, is well judged throughout, and makes one wonder what Ravel’s qualms about tackling the medium, over doubts about combining strings with piano, was all about. These three (including pianist Wu Qian) demonstrably play as one. Among other highlights are the whirlwind they create in ‘Pantoum’ and the sense of mystery brought to the ‘Passacaglia’; the work’s Basque-inspired rhythms are given propelling force without either string player forcing the tone.

Saint-Saëns’s writing for the medium, in his five-movement Second Trio of 1892, is inevitably somewhat less adventurous (though Ravel claimed him as an influence) and the forms are more conventional, but even he could play against type by writing a tripping Allegretto in 5/8 time, made to sound all the more whimsically disruptive by the Sitkovetsky Trio’s perky playing here. Elsewhere, the composer’s surging string themes over bubbling piano accompaniments are lovingly sculpted, and in the more equitable, contrapuntal sections, such as the fugue in the finale, the interplay is an object lesson in give and take.