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Franz Schubert: Piano Trios n° 1, opus 99, D.898 and n° 2, opus 100, D.929 – Notturno in E‑Flat major, D.897 – Sonatensatz in B‑Flat major, D.28
Trio Wanderer: Vincent Coq (piano), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), Raphaël Pidoux (cello)
Recording: Arsenal de Metz, France (July 10‑14, 2000) – 99’
2 CDs harmonia mundi HMM932002.03 – 3149020950906 (Distributed by [Integral]) – Booklet in English, French and German

Every time I see a new release by Trio Wanderer, I find myself humming the “Happy Wanderer" song. If you don’t know it, the lyrics start out, “I love to go a‑wandering/Along the mountain track/And as I go, I love to sing/My knapsack on my back.” [ref: original text written by Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1791‑1877)]. As the trio’s name suggests, there is something fresh and invigorating about the notion of tramping through the Alps with few possessions and a heart full of youthful energy.

That is the kind of energy Trio Wanderer has been bringing to chamber music audiences for decades. I still think of the three instrumentalists who make up this group as young people on the verge of musical discovery: Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), Raphaël Pidoux (cello) and Vincent Coq (piano). But while their playing is both nascent and mature, they have actually been making music together since 1988, more than a third of a century. They have recorded most of the important classical trios, quite a few contemporary works, and they have served as symphonic partners in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Now, at the peak of their powers, this ensemble is reissuing (from 2000) Schubert’s monumental Piano Trios n°s 1 and n° 2 as well as the Notturno and the Sonatensatz, the latter composed when Schubert was only 15 years old.

Trios n° 1 and n° 2, both composed in 1827, stand out, of course, as among the great piano trios of all time. Trio Wanderer navigates the intertwined melodic lines of the first of these compositions with a rare combination of dynamism and tenderness. Vincent Coq offers a robust, full‑bodied reading of the first movement piano part, assertively greeting our ears with a commanding sound that seems to shout, “Wake up! This chamber music is not for drowsy somnambulists!” If I can find any fault in this and the movements to follow, it’s that the piano somewhat dominates the conversation. Or perhaps I am so enchanted by Coq’s gripping performance I forget to turn my ears to the shyer instruments whose shining tones weave among his own. This movement has a wonderful display of glissandos, executed so smoothly, one can almost hear the quarter tones within chromatic runs (quarter tones are possible for the strings, not so much for the piano).

The second movement is more favorable to strings. Here, Raphaël Pidoux’s cello unveils a lovely barcarolle in triplets, a tune passed on to the violin, and given some remarkable twists and turns leading to a delicate final tonic. After a brisk scherzo, the trio ends with a rondo—bright and imaginative—executed with sparkling clarity.

Like its predecessor, Trio n° 2 is about 40 minutes in length, offering the composer opportunities to extend his melodic lines and spin those lines into a web of distinctive harmonies. Once again, the piano takes center stage, offering some dramatic runs between lengthy themes. The real star of this trio is the poignant second movement, introduced by Pidoux on cello. It is a song without words by the undisputed master of the German Lied, played with empathy and craft by one of the leading trios of our time.

Linda Holt




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