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JOHANNES BRAHMS - Piano Trio Op. 8 (1889 Version) - Piano Trio Op. 87 - Vienna Piano Trio - Hybrid SACD - 760623196268 - Released: July 2016 - MDG 9421962-6

As previously stated in this review of a recording of Camille Saint-SaŽns piano trios, the members of the Vienna Piano Trio, violinist David McCarroll, cellist Matthias Gredler and pianist Stefan Mendl, despite being a different line-up this time around, are such remarkable musicians that they seem to find inspiration, expression and deep musical narrative behind every note and within every bar they play. Mind you, that would be hard to miss when playing Brahms.

Who can resist the highly melodic and flowing lines that open the Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8, or the strongly impassioned nature of the whole first movement for that matter. The Schubertian lyricism of the highly agitated second movement, like hounds in pursuit of wild game. The dark solemnity of the piano part that underpins the structure of the Adagio from start to finish, so well played here by Stefan Mendl. And the fiery nature of the final movement that paves the way to a later, more masterful Brahms. The Piano Trio No. 2 in C major, Op. 87 more concerned with musical structure than with youthful romantic ideals, is no less captivating. For one thing, it certainly demands a more disciplined and coordinated interaction between all three musicians. It's this complex interplay of instrumental lines that projects this work's intent. And of course the members of the Vienna Piano Trio excel at this, and by all accounts, generate the desired results. It demands a more intellectual involvement from the listener, but in the end delivers higher dividends.

Ever since it was founded in 1988, the Vienna Piano Trio has without a doubt established itself as one of the best ensembles of this type. Many of its recordings have received accolades and awards over the years (I remember their early recordings on Nimbus attracting lots of attention from record collectors at the time), and this new recording is a strong indication that the best is yet to come.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2016