Schubert The Piano Trios

Schubert seems only to have begun taking the piano trio medium seriously towards the very end of his life, yet one of his earliest surviving chamber works is a Trio-Movement in B flat, D. 28 for piano, violin and cello composed in July and August of 1812, when he was merely 15. It was not, in fact, published until 1923.

The Vienna Schubert Trio was founded in 1985 and performed as a full-time ensemble until deciding to disband in 1993. From the outset the trio appeared regularly in the music centres of Europe, North America and Asia, and rapidly established a reputation as one of the foremost piano trios. In its debut season, they won first prize at the International Chamber Music Competition “Sergio Lorenzi” in Trieste, Italy with Sandor Vegh as president of the jury, and as a result were given the opportunity to work with the Beaux Arts Trio. After its first tour of the United States in 1986, the Trio was named the year’s “Best New Visiting Chamber Ensemble” by the Washington Post.

The ensemble devoted itself to both the established masterpieces of the repertoire and many less familiar works, often presented in the context of concert series designed to demonstrate relationships between various composers and styles. The Vienna Schubert Trio played on two exceptionally fine string instruments from the collection of the Austrian National Bank: Boris Kuschnir plays on a violin by Antonius Stradivarius (1644-1737). It was built in 1698 in Cremona and is known as ‘La Rouse-Boughton’. Martin Hornstein plays on a cello by J. B. Guadagnini (1711-1786). It was built in 1743 in Piacenza and is known as the ‘ex van Zweyberg’.



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"High-impact, masculine performance and recording."

This is full-blooded Schubert, richly recorded in a fairly up-front balance – for the strings in particular, and performed with passion and commitment. Right from the outset, the musicians of the Wiener Schubert Trio grab your attention in the dramatic opening of the Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D.898, and the only real question is whether they will be able to hold it.
This is a very fine set and, set in a gorgeous church acoustic, perhaps the one of the best recorded. They have a fine lightness of touch in the final Rondo.   
They are once again powerful in the first movement of the wonderful Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat D.929. Their explosively dramatic playing further on in the movement is certainly more than a match for the rather stiff Arion Trio, and out-storms the Beaux Arts players as well. I certainly enjoy their little shifts in tempo for the Scherzando, and the final Allegro moderato has great charm, though having more of a salon superficiality than the tightly observed intensity of the Beaux Arts Trio.
There is of course much competition from all over the place in these pieces...if you are looking for masculine performances in a full-sounding recording which pulls no punches and brings out the tougher edges of Schubert’s passionate writing then this may indeed be the very thing for you. The playing here is technically very fine, musically sensitive and often very exciting. One thing is for sure however, you won’t be falling asleep while it’s on!  Dominy Clements,

The Vienna Schubert Trio are masters of cohesion, phrase and dynamic, the members collectively skilled at dovetailing shared roles. Why is a recording made in 1991, by a group that disbanded in 1993 after only eight years together appearing so late? Whatever the reason, there's cause for rejoicing today.  Nalen Anthoni, Gramophone

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