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Beethoven, Brahms, Zemlinsky
Trios for Piano, Viola and Cello

Beethoven Op 81b, Brahms Op 114, Zemlinsky Op 3

Carmen Piazzini (piano), Vidor Nagy (viola), Jurgen Gerlinger (cello)

Hera 02119

The Beethoven is very early, despite its late Opus number (les Adieux is 81a). It sounds not unlike an expanded bagatelle from Op 33, straightforward and by no means the composer’s best, even from an early period. It is, for example, significantly less melodically striking than the Beethoven Clarinet trio Op 11. There is also a sextet version, with two horns and strings, but this is the first ever recording of the trio.

Whereas the Brahms clarinet sonatas have arguably more character in their original form, the viola version of the Op 114 trio is outstandingly successful, in matching the viola and cello timbres. The work suddenly closely resembles the Op 101 trio; it sounds fresh and new, insofar as such adjectives suit something in the late Brahmsian idiom of compressed reflectiveness. We know Brahms used to test compositions by covering up all the lines except the top and bottom, yet he loved the mid-range instruments (horn, clarinet, maybe 'cello more than viola, if you think of the third movement solo in the second piano concerto). Here Op 114 sounds spiritual, not unlike the two songs with viola accompaniment, the Four Serious Songs, or the Wolf Spanish Liederbuch.

The Zemlinsky was written when Brahms was still alive, just. It is very evidently late Romantic, and indeed Brahmsian – Zemlinsky advanced himself, indeed, by entering a composers’ competition anonymously which Brahms was judging, knowing already that his mentor thought highly of his music.

Piazzini was recently reviewed on the same label as part of the Alvarez Piano Quartet, and she does not disappoint here. All three performers play with enthusiasm and very idomatically.

Heartily recommended.

Ying Chang