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Hyperion Records

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Autumn (1912) by Franz Dvorák (1862-1927)
Private Collection; reproduced by kind permission of the copyright holders, Whitford & Hughes, UK / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67572
Recording details: May 2007
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2008
Total duration: 29 minutes 26 seconds

'The Florestan are wonderfully sympathetic interpreters, catching the music's youthful freshness and ardour with no false rhetoric. They take care to keep the textures uncluttered, phrase with a natural expressiveness, and show an idiomatic feel for the dance rhythms that pervade these trios. Both slow movements are intensely moving, with soft playing of rare intensity and subtlety, while the allegretto intermezzo in No 1 is deliciously airy. The yearning Elegy by Dvořak's son-in-law, Josef Suk, makes a welcome and touching bonus' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The Florestan Trio bring exactly the right kind of interpretative vitality and insight to the table, rejoicing in the music's exuberant dance rhythms and melodic fecundity while ensuring that the various ideas flow into one another with compelling inevitability … the Florestan are now clear leaders in the Dvořák piano trio stakes' (International Record Review)

'Enchantment strikes straight away. There's that clean freshness and bounce, the trio's trademark. There's Dvořák himself, strongly lyrical and folksy at the start of his Op 21 Piano Trio. The players balance one another: Richard Lester's cradling cello, Anthony Marwood's emotionally generous violin, Susan Tomes's energising piano. Dvořák's Op 26 trio—subtler, more thoughtful—is a neat contrast. The usual excellent Hyperion recording' (The Times)

'Dvořak's first two trios are in good hands here. The Florestan Trio has always had the happy knack of both capturing character in an instant and bringing coherence to extended structures. These performances are by turns joyous, dance-like, seductive, introspective and dramatic, and all the while commendably free of self-indulgence, for beneath the surface colour there is serious musical purpose, a sense of clear direction and narrative cohesion … the recording, too, is superb—the playing is forward and clear with just enough bloom to give warmth, and the balance is immaculate' (The Strad)

'The Florestan Trio chose Dvořák's better-known later trios for one of its earliest CDs, and fans have waited patiently for more. At last, we're rewarded with a wonderfully warm and subtle performance from one of the finest trios around … the Florestan Trio doesn't disappoint with its members' effortless musicianship—a sweetly judged combination of verve and lyricism' (Classic FM Magazine)

'As with the first disc in this cycle, the performances by the Florestan Trio are models of sensitive chamber music playing. Balances among the three instruments are always well judged; the rhythms in the scherzos are well-sprung, while the slow movements have warmth without schmaltz' (ClassicsToday.com)

'1875 is considered something of a breakthrough year for Dvořák … it is from amidst this bounteous spell of creativity that the masterful Piano Trio in B flat major, Op 21 emerged. This is a work brimming with trademarks of the composer's genius, ranging from impassioned yearning in the Adagio molto e mesto to unbridled exuberance in the finale. The Florestan Trio once again prove to be ideal exponents of these characteristics. Every nut and bolt of the musical construction is treated with the utmost care, every cadential juncture managed with enchanting subtlety. Not once does this opulence of expression threaten to relinquish its position to the maudlin forces of sentimentality' (Musical Criticism.com)

'The Florestan Trio is superb in these works, playing with energy and lyricism, tough in the more dramatic sections, warm when warmth is needed. The material is blessed with well-balanced, vibrant engineering that helps make this disc an attractive introduction to a neglected corner of Dvořák's output' (The Absolute Sound, USA)

Piano Trio in G minor, Op 26 B56
composer
4-20 January 1876

Allegro moderato  [11'51]
Largo  [5'58]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
For many years, Dvorák’s 1876 Piano Trio in G minor, Op 26, suffered from the weight of expectation loaded on it by his biographers. Four months before it was written, Dvorák’s second daughter, Josefa, had died only two days after she was born. These tragic circumstances led writers to assume that this work must in some way have been written as a memorial to her, even though Dvorák gave no indication of this, and even though his musical language and character were not, on the whole, attuned to the expression of tragedy. The influential Otakar Šourek went so far as to write that its ‘spiritual anguish’ unmistakably anticipated the atmosphere of the Stabat Mater, which Dvorák wrote later that same year.

In fact there is little of this to be found in the music of the G minor Trio. The minor key gives much of it a rugged character, as at the opening, and elsewhere a feeling of brooding intensity and nervous energy. But the mood is too energetic and determined to seem at all tragic except in the slow movement. One feature which distinguishes it from Dvorák’s later, and better-known, chamber works is its economy of means. Although the first movement seems to have two principal themes, one is so closely related to the other as to seem like a variation of it. The movement begins with two assertive chords, followed by a few bars in which melodic ideas are tried out. Soon a motif of repeated turns settles into the first real theme played by the piano, and then taken up by the violin. Later this same turning motif settles into a second theme, first played by the cello. This has simply taken the motif and slowed it down to form a sequence of repeated phrases, which Dvorák develops with inimitable grace. The movement as it unfolds is full of contrast and dramatic development, but all based on this skilfully related opening material.

The slow movement is also constructed from very little material. It has only one theme, a melody sung by the cello at the opening, whose character is at first lyrical rather than tragic. But a persistent drumbeat develops in the bass of the piano, giving a hint of a funeral march. There is a sudden hush, and a middle section ruminates quietly on the theme in a mood of sorrowful reminiscence. When the theme itself returns, it is at first rich and expansive. But later the sliding chromatic harmonies in the strings add new poignancy. There are further delicately sorrowful touches as the movement works to a close, and the ending reiterates the suggestion of the funeral drum. But overall the movement conveys a mood of gentle nostalgia rather than deep tragedy.

The Scherzo is full of rhythmic invention, built on a five-bar phrase which is pursued from instrument to instrument. It is briefly interrupted by a wistful cello melody, which, like the cello’s second theme in the first movement, has simply taken the opening motif and slowed it down. The central trio shows Dvorák in naïve mood, seemingly improvising on nothing more than an arpeggio of rising chords with little cadences to round off each phrase. The finale, like the first movement, starts with assertive chords, but now in G major. This sounds like a call to a dance, and indeed the music, first tentatively and then boldly, takes on something of the character of a polka. There are two extended passages of development, as in a conventional sonata movement, but they are each time pulled back to the dance out of which they grew. It is a movement of fascinating ambiguity, but the final few bars insist that the dance must have the last word.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2008

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