Schubert: Trio in Es-Dur/Notturno (ECM New Series 1595)

Franz Schubert
Trio in Es-Dur/Notturno

Jörg Ewald Dähler fortepiano
Hansheinz Schneeberger violin
Thomas Demenga cello
Recorded July 1995

ECM has nobly benefited the classical music industry by continuing to draw bold lines back to the works of Franz Schubert with consistently thoughtful performances and pairings. Although he never wrote for piano trio until his final year of life, Schubert seems to have put his all into the two masterworks that are the op. 99 and op. 100. For this major release, the latter has been paired with the often-neglected “Notturno,” published two decades after his death.

Harriett Smith calls the Trio in Es-Dur für Klavier, Violine und Violoncello op. 100, D 929 a “bridge between the trios of Beethoven and Brahms,” and was the longest ever composed (it equals, if not surpasses, the average symphony in scope) until Morton Feldman’s Trio of 1980. Penned in 1827, four years into the advancement of his syphilis, Schubert’s second piano trio came about when a close friend, Josef von Spaun, requested the piece for his wedding. Schubert would die in a matter of months after its premier, which reached his ears once before they heard no more.

The musicians superbly evoke the careful tension Schubert has worked into every phrase of the first movement. In its cosmos, one hears the voices of the stars, throttling the engine of space-time in dreamy suspension. A tinge of classicism adorns the Swedish folk song-enriched interior of the second movement, its delicate modality reflected in the pizzicato from both strings. An Austrian country-dance provides the basis for the Scherzo that follows, leading us into a massive Allegro moderato, which inventively brings back the theme of the second movement. Despite the daunting length of this and the first movement, our sense of progression never wavers. Schubert’s magical touches make exuberant experiences out of these longer narratives.

If, in the full trio, we get four worlds as one universe, in the Trio in Es-Dur für Klavier, Violine, Violoncello op. posth. 148, D 897 we get a glimpse into a newborn nebula. This single movement, dubbed “Notturno” (Nocturne) by publisher and composer Anton Diabelli, is believed to have been a rejected Adagio for the first piano trio in B flat major. As fragile as it is taut, it continues to thrive, a gorgeous offspring wrought in filigree and grace.

Jörg Ewald Dähler’s historically informed fortepiano, combined with the profoundly contemporary approaches of resident label cellist Thomas Demenga and the legendary Hansheinz Schneeberger on violin, infuses every moment of these performances with equal parts innovation and ritual. One need only listen behind closed eyes to see the images they recreate.

<< Peter Erskine Trio: As It Is (ECM 1594)
>> Misha Alperin: North Story (ECM 1596)

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