They apply an autumnal glow with broad brushstrokes, taking all the time they need to...
Alan Gregory 2004
Op. 8 to Op. 101; from the twenty-year-old Brahms in 1853, protégé of Robert Schumann, to the mature master of his craft some 33 years later. Quite a journey, although perhaps not quite as far as it first appears, since Brahms revisited his Op. 8 Piano Trio just six years before he died: not to stick a wig on it, but at least to comb its hair a little as he put it.
Any players approaching Brahms's Op. 8 have to find their own balance between youthful ardour and mature wisdom, something the Capuçon brothers and American pianist Nicholas Angelich achieve with almost selfless grace. Just sample the slow movement, where they apply an autumnal glow with broad brushstrokes, taking all the time they need to allow Brahms's phrases to uncurl seemingly of their own volition.
The C major Trio Op. 87 has a more mysterious air about it, turning in on itself after the confidence of the opening unison theme. Again the Capuçons and Angelich seem to think and breathe together so naturally that the performance feels instinctively truthful. The shadowy scherzo bubbles with barely suppressed passion, yet there are no ugly corners, no transitional difficulties, no moments where you might worry for an instant that the ideas of the players are being put ahead of the composers.
The late, great Op. 101 Piano Trio opens with restrained power and unfolds with a stately grandeur that settles into the most beautifully realised passages of warmth and serenity, Brahms at peace in the summer of 1886 on the shores of Lake Thun in Switzerland. The child-like simplicity of the slow movement is rendered as a lullaby, and the finale has punch without the application of brute force.
There's something effortless about all three of these performances, as though the phrases are being spun in zero gravity, where mass is musical rather than physical. The tone is ravishingly beautiful, the recording stays clear and uncongested, and Brahmss voice is allowed to reach us apparently unaltered by the imposition of any third party's personality. Impossible, of course, yet these are some of the least self-regarding interpretations of Brahms chamber music I've heard, and they're all the better for it.
Like This? Try These:
Schubert: Piano Trio no. 2 in E flat (Florestan Trio)
Brahms: Piano Quartet, Schumann: Fantasiestücke (Argerich, Kremer, Bashmet, Maisky)
Enescu/Ravel: Chamber Works (Leonidas Kavakos)