CD by MICHAEL JOHNSON – “Playing the Schubert trios is one of the greatest satisfactions a musician can have, “ said French pianiste François Dumont. His two-CD Schubert Complete Works for Piano Trio performed by his Trio Elegiaque is due for launch in February.
When young French pianist François Dumont appeared at the Salle Gaveau in Paris recently, the critics embraced him without reserve. One wrote that his recital “confirmed his place in the family of the best musicians in France”. Another said his Ravel produced “dreamy colors … (where) brio and poetry converge.” Dumont is making his mark. He maintains a busy concert schedule and produces a prodigious stream of CDs. A new disc of his Chopin is due for launch in February. An earlier Chopin recording reveals his mastery of the oeuvre.
I have just received an advance copy of his two-CD Schubert Complete Works for Piano Trio performed by his Trio Elegiaque. I can barely take it in. I am still recovering from the impact of Elégiaque’s recent Beethoven’s Complete Piano Trios. The new Schubert deserves a close hearing to appreciate Dumont’s ethereal touch, his rich tone, sensitive articulation, his sweeping arpeggios and his expert coordination with violinist Philippe Aïche and cellist Virginie Constant. The effect of these Schubert trios is transporting, nothing less.
Was it hubris or chutzpah that prompted the Elégiaque threesome to come up against similar recordings by Ashkenazy-Zukerman-Harrell and Serkin-Busch-Busch and several others? Whatever their thinking, the time has arrived for this fresh new version, delightful in every way. “Playing the Schubert trios is one of the greatest satisfactions a musician can have, “ Dumont told me some months ago in an interview, shortly after the recording of the trios was completed. “But they are also extremely demanding for the three players … pleasure and pain together.” The set (from Academy Productions AP732), denominated for its most interesting piece, “Notturno” D. 897, covers all of Schubert’s piano trio output.
The Notturno in E-flat major D. 28 ties it together. The Notturno has an uncertain place in Schubert’s life work. Musicologists believe it was discarded after being tried out as the slow movement for his B-flat trio, Op. 99, D. 898, included in this album. But it stands alone easily as a coherent piece, opening with a series of rolling chords and a lovely duet with violin and cello. One Schubert specialist has written that the Notturno “is not as well known as it should be”. Dumont and friends may help fill this lapsus. Dumont’s principal teacher, William Grant Naboré, founder of the International PIano Academy on Lake Como, Italy, wrote in program notes that the Notturno was Schubert’s first foray into writing for piano and strings. Schubert’s work in general “is filled with song and dance qualities that his aficianados loved and venerated, Naboré wrote. “This was part of his DNA.”
The playing in these CDs is exemplary for combining the entire arc of the trios, which span Schubert’s life from the early years at as a law student. Taken together, they display Schubert’s musical development in his ensemble writing. Schubert wrote only two complete piano trios and two movements for piano trios. The four-movement Trio in B flat op. 99, D. 898, which opens this album, is notable for its charming, adventurous and inventive melodies and its rondo finale. The Sonatensatz in B flat, D. 28, dates from 1812, when Schubert was only 15. One Schubert scholar supposes that “like many of (his) compositions, he probably got tired of writing it, put it aside to return to some time in the future (but) never did so.”
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