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Dohnányi Martinů Schönberg String Trios

Ernö Dohnányi Serenade in C Major for String Trio, Op 10
Arnold Schönberg String Trio, Op 45
Bohuslav Martinů String Trio No 2

The Leopold String Trio
Marianne Thorsen Violin
Lawrence Power Viola
Kate Gould Cello

Hyperion CDA67429 (TT 55.49)

Three works for string trio by composers who grew up in the later years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The works range in time from the Dohnányi composed in 1902, through the Martinů (1934), finally to the Schönberg Trio composed in California in 1946.

The performance of the five movement Dohnányi Serenade sees a fine balance achieved by the musicians in this bright piece with its dancing rhythms contrasted with romantic and soulful seriousness. The highlight is the fourth movement, a set of variations on a chorale like theme. The piece ends with a lively Rondo that has the impact of a similar type of finale by Brahms or Dvorak. The music would be ideal for programming into a coffee concert at the Wigmore or Blackheath Halls.

Schönberg's Trio was written after the composer had suffered a serious heart attack. Although the work contains references to this event, as discussed in the excellent sleeve notes by Calum Macdonald, an emotional response to the music does not depend on knowledge of the composers near death experience. The music, played continuously in five movements labelled Parts and Episodes, distils into approximately twenty minutes an entire soundworld of turbulence, violent drama, shattering emotional outpourings, ending with a profound sense of peace. It requires virtuosic musicianship which the Leopold Trio supply. One can imagine that at the end of recording this masterpiece, in the days leading up to last Christmas, the musicians left the recording studio exhausted and drained but profoundly satisfied with their achievement.

The CD concludes with a fine rendition of the rhythmically bustling Martinu Trio and another opportunity for virtuosic playing from this first class ensemble.

Mark Dennis

© Peter Grahame Woolf