You really want to like Edouard Lalo’s first two piano trios. The composer writes supremely well for violin, cello, and piano, and handles the genre with skill, assurance, and fluency. His ear for texture and register always catches your attention, especially in the second subject of Trio No 2’s first movement, where a hymn-like cello theme is surrounded by soft, high-lying piano figurations, or in the varied solo/accompaniment and contrapuntal passages of the Trio No 1 finale. If only the musical ideas themselves were consistently so interesting and emotionally engaging as they are in his Trio No 3; its grippingly obsessive slow movement is worth the price of admission, while the volatile finale might be best described as “Schumann on steroids”.
The Leonore Piano Trio has much to offer in regard to its meticulous observing of Lalo’s wide-ranging dynamics. The players intensify quirky phrases with biting accents and discreet portamentos, such as those in the Trio No 2’s strange Minuetto, yet can deliver suavely dovetailed ensemble work in the Trio No 3’s tricky Presto Trio section, with its delicate yet melodically important pizzicatos.
The latter’s aforementioned finale may seem overwrought and super-intense in comparison with the relatively blended geniality of the Gryphon Trio and Trio Parnassus recordings. Then again, these two ensembles sidestep Lalo’s “con fuoco” directive that the Leonore Trio positively relishes. Hyperion’s engineers leave no detail unheard, although a slightly more distant perspective might have relieved occasional congestion in loud passages. On balance, this is the finest release with all three Lalo trios in the present and past catalogs.