This is the seventh in Hyperion’s series of Arensky discs, beautifully erasing Rimsky-Korsakov’s write-off (for him, Arensky was doomed to oblivion). Above all, here is music for all those who weary of grappling with the complexities of contemporary works to rejoice in an all-Russian fountain of melodic charm, embroidered with an alternating full and delicate tracery. True, as the admirable booklet-note has it, there are ‘accents of regret and melancholy’ never far below the surface of such riches, though Arensky wears such colouring more lightly and less engulfingly than Rachmaninov (his early D minor Trio) and less intensely than Tchaikovsky. Such shadows are swept aside in the scintillating Scherzo of the First Trio and returned to once more in the third-movement ‘Elegia’ before being erased in a finale of a robust and endearing eloquence.
The less familiar Second Trio in F minor is not so easily accessible as the First, less clearly structured and with a distinct advance in its greater sense of adventure. This time the second-movement ‘Romance’ precedes the Scherzo, alive with a heart-easing melody before the Scherzo once more flashes with summer lightning, particularly from the pianist. The finale is an ambitious set of variations, though with a quiet and magically sustained conclusion.
The Leonore Piano Trio then add as their encore an arrangement for trio of Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ by Julius Conus (1869-1942), a close friend of the composer who was also a student of Arensky—an ideal tying-up, as it were, of related themes and threads. The Leonores play with truly glorious affection and security, and it is hard to imagine playing of a greater empathy. Balance (there is no artificial highlighting) and sound are ideal.