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CD Reviews: High-definition Schubert chamber music and Russian symphonists

By John Terauds on April 24, 2012

Livia Sohn, Bernadene Blaha and Luigi Piovano are Latitude 41 Trio.

Schubert Piano Trio Op. 100 & Notturno (Eloquentia)

If anyone needed confirmation of how global the classical music world is, here’s a French-issued CD that was recorded at the Banff Centre by a piano trio made up of Korean-American violinist Livia Sohn (who also happens to be the wife of Canadian Geoff Nutall), Italian cellist Luigi Piovano and Canadian pianist Bernadene Blaha.

What really matters is that these three occasional collaborators as Latitude 41 Trio make some very fine music together in this all-Schubert album.

Both the E-flat Major Piano Trio, D929, and the single-movement Adagio in the same key (probably originally intended as a slow movement for another trio), known as Notturno (D897), date from Schubert’s superhumanly productive penultimate year, 1827.

The Latitude Trio approaches the music in a clear, straightforward way, giving the music sparkle and momentum. They keep the “con moto” in the Trio‘s haunted second movement. The musical ideas are clearly presented and the three instruments keep a beautiful balance throughout. Blaha’s fairy-dust touch on the piano is a pleasure to behold.

This is all about Schubert weighted in favour of the Classical, rather than the Romantic side.

Sometimes, simplicity is the hardest thing of all to achieve, in music or anything else.

Here’s a link to the Eloquentia website, which is in French only.

Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances (LSO Live)

Russian superstar conductor Valery Gergiev pulls off a remarkable rapprochement between Sergei Rachmaninov and Igor Stravinsky, two composers born only nine years apart, yet representing completely different musical worlds.

This live-concert recording of the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre pulses with barely contained energy, thanks to their charismatic principal conductor.

The opening section of Rachmaninov’s 1940 Symphonic Dances – the last big piece of music he wrote — rattles with the primal thrust of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The middle movement of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, which had its premiere in 1946, has the clarity and elegance of a Rachmaninov piano prelude.

The two pieces make a brilliant pairing, excellently played, that should satisfy those listeners who like Rachmaninov’s late-Romantic sensibility as well as the more Modernist-minded lovers of Stravinsky’s music. There isn’t a dull note to be heard, although it would’ve been nice to hear these big pieces recorded in a more ample-sounding hall.

For all the details as well as some audio samples from this release, click here.

John Terauds

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