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CD Review

Trio Recital 1973

Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele
Josef Suk, violin
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano
János Starker, cello
Hänssler Classic 93.724
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What a wonderfully magnificent disc! The notes claim that of the two string players, Suk was the finer, but that's a silly statement that cheapens the end result. So too does the endless talk about how young Buchbinder was at 27; I don't feel particularly special at his age, and I doubt if you asked the pianist now, he would look at the number as anything especially notable. Suk and Starker weren't yet 50, but between the three there is an enormous wealth of musical knowledge that could not be measured by age. All three play wonderfully together, three great musical personalities creating a great partnership.

The Beethoven Op. 1 has three Trios, of which the third seems the most popular. Despite being in C minor, it has little of the dark rumblings of the famous Fifth Symphony. Yet even here in his first numbered opus, Beethoven cultivates a unique sound that heralds his compositional voice to the world. The three artists do nothing short of dazzle; Buchbinder's rock-solid piano compliments the unfailing artistry of his partners. If Starker's contributions sometimes get buried by the otherwise excellent SWR Radio engineering, he still commands respect for his singing tone. Suk leads the charge with an utterly masterful grasp of his lines, and the pianists' quicksilver runs are something special 40 years later.

The Mendelssohn has an unusually dark and gripping first movement. Again, Suk leads the way, complimented by some utterly captivating work from his collaborators. I still feel Starker is a little too far back in the mix, but his music-making is never in doubt. The music itself is Mendelssohn at his finest. The simplicity of the inner movements is somehow also utterly Romantic in nature; lovingly tender and brilliantly played, the music breaks no new ground but manages to beguile all the same. The finale is light and full of fireworks for all three players. A joy, a worthy memento, and a must for chamber music fans!

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman