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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Clara Schumann; Fanny Mendelssohn - Piano Trios (Dartington Trio)


Composer: Clara Schumann; Fanny Mendelssohn
  1. C. Schumann - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17: I. Allegro
  2. C. Schumann - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17: II. Scherzo
  3. C. Schumann - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17: III. Andante
  4. C. Schumann - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17: IV. Allegretto
  5. F. Mendelssohn - Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11: I. Allegro molto vivace
  6. F. Mendelssohn - Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11: II. Andante expressivo
  7. F. Mendelssohn - Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11: III. Lied. Allegretto
  8. F. Mendelssohn - Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11: IV. Finale. Allegretto moderato

Dartington Trio
Oliver Butterworth, violin
Michael Evans, cello
Frank Wibaut, piano

Date: 1988
Label: Hyperion



''Women always betray themselves in their compositions, and this is true of myself as well as others'', so Clara Schumann was candid enough to admit in her diary not long after completing her G minor Piano Trio in 1846, at the age of 27, as well as making the acquaintance of certain works by her friend, Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. In their own special cases she was right: it would have been more than difficult for either lady to escape influences as strong as those of Clara's husband and Fanny's brother. Yet these two so aptly coupled trios still leave no doubt as to the composer Clara might have become if not already torn between the claims of concert pianist and mother and Fanny had her well-heeled family not considered it improper for a lady to pursue any kind of profession at all. Clara, I think, emerges as the neater craftsman: her G minor Trio's finale even sports artful fugal development of its rhythmically transformed first subject. Fanny's work (which despite its happy ending I think should have been billed as in D minor rather than D major) suggests a wider-ranging imagination, particularly its seething first movement. But in her case inspirational level is not so consistently sustained to the end. It's certainly hard to understand why she chose to cast her third movement as a Lied (at first easily mistakable for a second episode in the impressive slow movement) instead of a minuetto or scherzo.

Comparison with the Cologne Clementi Trio in Fanny's Op. 11 on Largo/Impetus (nla) shows that the Dartington Piano Trio enjoy a warmer, closer recording—even if their venue's reverberant acoustic slightly blurs the keyboard sound. They play both works with care and love, allowing ample time for every phrase to breathe. Sometimes the music seems to need the Cologners' slightly stronger forward impulse, as in response to minor key agitation in the middle sections of both slow movements. l would also have preferred a simpler flow to their slightly finicky phrasing of the 'Scotch snap' motif in Clara's Scherzo. But that's mere hair-splitting. I'm sure no one would have been happier to find two such engaging performances side by side than the two ladies themselves.

-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Clara Schumann (née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896) was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann, and ogether they encouraged Johannes Brahms. She was the first to perform publicly any work by Brahms and later premiered some other pieces by him.


Fanny Mendelssohn [Hensel] (14 November 1805 – 14 May 1847) was a German pianist and composer, the sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn. She composed over 460 pieces of music, include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her songs were originally published under Felix's name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. In recent years, her music has become better known thanks to concert performances and a number of CDs being released on labels such as Hyperion and CPO.


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