The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Vidor Nagy (viola) Peter Wolf (cello) Carmen Piazzini (piano)
Composer: Just, Holzer, Glinka, Berger

If, like me, you thought that trios for viola, cello and piano must be really thin on the ground, maybe we should revise that opinion. A year after the release of a CD with trios by Beethoven, Brahms and Zemlinsky (see The Strad, @@@), along comes the indefatigable Vidor Nagy with a second helping. Johan August Just’s composition was published in 1782 ‘for the Harpsichord or Piano Forte with Accompanyments’, and the string parts are accordingly modest. Johann Baptist Holzer (a member of the same Freemason lodge as Mozart, and author of the present Austrian national anthem) wrote more ambitious parts for the three players. Since the viola stays in first position and is linked in thirds with the cello most of the time, the piece has an agreeably dark colour in spite of its C major key.

Glinka’s Trio pathétique, an early composition, was posthumously published in versions for both clarinet and violin. Since typical woodwind figurations are conspicuous by their absence, a viola version doesn’t seem that far-fetched. The same reasoning, eloquently defended in Ulrich Drüner’s typically well informed booklet notes, was applied to Wilhelm Berger’s Brahmsian trio from 1905. Whatever the theory, it has to be said that both compositions sound convincingly compelling, at least in the fiery advocacy of Nagy and his colleagues. Peter Wolf, principal cellist of the Hessian Radio Orchestra in Frankfurt, is new to the team, and fits in like the proverbial glove. The recording is warm and yet clear, presenting this fascinating programme in the best light.

Carlos María Solare