SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BRAHMS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 = Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87; Piano Trio in A, Op. posthumous – Guarneri Trio Prague – Praga

Volume 2 in the outstanding SACD Brahms series by the Guarneri Trio Prague.

Published on January 4, 2011

BRAHMS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 = Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87; Piano Trio in A, Op. posthumous – Guarneri Trio Prague – Praga

BRAHMS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 = Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87; Piano Trio in A, Op. posthumous – Guarneri Trio Prague – Praga Digitals multichannel SACD 250273, 58:27 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Brahms penned only five positively-proven trios—one for clarinet, one for horn, and three for piano, the second (and maybe best) one given on this disc in C. It is a product of the period when the Second Piano Concerto and First Symphony made their appearances, and is easily Brahms in his stride. The arguments are taut, authoritative, and very masculine, presented with the assurance of a composer who knows exactly what he wants to get across.

But we also get in this volume the unique and recently-appearing A-major trio, a work that only showed itself in 1924, and has yet to be fully authenticated as there is no autograph score, only a set of published parts, and no way to determine its author for certain. It is true that the piece was found in Bonn, and corresponds to the date that Clara Schumann had praised one of a twin pair of trios by the composer—could it be that this was one piece that escaped Brahms’s penchant for manic destruction and consignment to the flames every once in a while? As of yet we simply do not know, but I doubt that anyone can doubt the similarity to the piano music being created by him at the time, along with the massive spread-fingered textures of the piano, or the often-unison melodic stirrings of the violin and cello. The thing simply sounds too much like Brahms to be by anyone else, and its canonical acceptance is likely even in the absence of more Holmesian facts to bolster the argument. In this trio we probably do have a saved remnant of the twin trios that Brahms indicated at the time that he would “probably not publish”. One can only imagine the music that never saw the light of day because of his overly-sensitive quality control issues.

As in the head note, this is the second issue of what will be the complete trios by the Guarneri Trio Prague, and it is excellent, as good as any in my library. This group has gotten very favorable notices in these pages by different critics, and the standard continues, the Prague’s rich sound and calorie-intensive playing just what the doctor ordered (along with a cholesterol pill…).

The surround sound is very fine, with the trio breathing nicely in the context of the air surrounding them as well. A fine issue, easily worth your investment if so needed.

– Steven Ritter




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