Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman: Mendelssohn Piano Trios

Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma
The National

By Katie Boucher

Sony Classical

Performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in April 2009 to celebrate Mendelssohn’s bicentenary, this recording of two of the German composer’s most accomplished piano works combines the star power of three of classical music’s most gifted players for the first time. The result, unsurprisingly, is exquisite.

Rarely do such musical powerhouses come together, and the easy bond between them is evident throughout in the music’s effortlessly lilting timbre. Some might be tempted to interpret that as a lack of vigour, but it is simply the sound of three old hands doing something with such ease that it just trips off the bow – or keys in Ax’s case.

There is no fight for supremacy, since the structure of the works gives each a chance to shine. Ma wields his cello in the way you would expect from a multi-Grammy Award-winning artist, while Perlman on the violin and Ax on the piano both make it clear, by their technical brilliance, exactly how they got to the top of their respective games.

There are moments when the indulgently Romantic tone of the piece threatens to smother you, but it is this that makes these works of chamber music some of most popular of their genre, and led Mendelssohn to be described at the time as “the Mozart of the 19th century”.