Ignaz Lachner: Piano Trio No. 1; Gustav Jensen: Fantasiestucke, Op. 27; Mikhail Glinka: 3 Russian Songs


Listening to only the starting measures of the Piano Trio Op. 37 by Ignaz Lachner on this Phil.harmonie CD, the elevated level of the performances is already evident. The disc contains two rare and lovely German Romantic-era piano trios by Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895) and Gustav Jensen (1843-1895), as well as a transcription for piano trio of three songs by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857). The performers are violinist Rüdiger Liebermann and violist Walter Küssner - both members of the Berlin Philharmonic - and pianist Noriko Sugiyama, a regular chamber music partner of a number of BPO members and the orchestra's rehearsal pianist for over 15 years.

All of these works are scored for piano, violin and viola rather than the more common piano trio configuration with cello. The difference is subtle and often goes quite unnoticed, especially when the viola is placed in its lower register. When played in its upper register in duet with the violin playing at the bottom of its range, the two instruments can become rather homogeneous partners, each producing a timbre more similar to the other than in the combination of cello and violin.

The music from all three composers is written in a late-romantic vein and is very easy to enjoy. With playing that is full of felicitous musical touches, these three wonderful musicians make you quickly dismiss whatever shortcomings may exist in the works themselves. The playing is never self indulgent; the three artists play together with a genuine musical integrity that is gracious, self-effacing and thoroughly sympathetic of one another and to the music. The sample provided is the third movement Scherzo of the Trio No. 1, Op. 37 by Ignaz Lachner. The music is bold, tuneful and quite unforgettable as heard in these performances.

There is a weakness to this project, however. The English notes are among the worst I've ever encountered. They read as though the original German had been run through a translation utility and never actually read by someone who speaks English. This can be a little frustrating when you go to learn more about the music, but is not remotely a reason to bypass these marvelous performances.