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Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio is a masterpiece of the genre. The finest modern recording has been on BIS with Freddy Kempf a master of the moments of rhetoric in the first movement, and matching his excellent colleagues in warmth besides offering much digital brilliance in the delicate passagework. That’s challenged now by Yefim Bronfman’s commanding contribution in this new recording; he’s equally bold and strong in the bolder moments of the opening Pezzo elegiac and his unforced virtuosity is as memorable- sample his dazzlingly delicate fingerwork in the third variation of the second movement, while his playing of the theme on which these kalaiedescopic variations are based has a most engaging simplicity.
Gil Shaham and Truls Mork are just as warm and sensitive, spacious and charismatic, especially in the quicksilver finale which moves from resolute and con fuoco to a very touching closing Andante lugubre. The recording is fully worthy of the playing, with the balance allowing the piano to dominate where necessary but never overwhelming the strings.
The snag is it has no coupling, while BIS offers an impressive account of Rachmaninov’s G minor Trio elegiaque and the new Supraphon CD by the Smetana Trio has Dvorak’s G minor Second Piano Trio with its warmy appealing Largo, delicious Scherzo and finale played with an idiomatic lightness of touch. The Smetana performance of the Tchaikovsky is also a fine one, rather more intimately balanced than its competitors, and with its pianist, although well placed in the integrated overall sound picture, less dominant. The variations are given a strong forward pulse and plenty of character. The disc is enjoyable throughout, if not a first choice for the Tchaikovsky.