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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 [27:57]
Trio for piano, violin and viola in C minor [14:27]
Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66 [28:25]
Fanny MENDELSSOHN-HENSEL (1805-1847)
Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11 [24:32]
Hrvoje Jugovic (piano); Maria Bader-Kubizek (violin); Silvia Schweinberger (viola); Dorothea Schonwiese (cello)
rec. 19-22 February 2009, Geinberg Hall Aigelsberg, Polling im Innkreis, Austria; 12-15 January 2010, Baroque Hall, Vorau Monastery, Austria
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94490 [42:24 + 52:57] 
This 2 CD set is a total winner. It presents the complete piano trios of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn on period instruments, in spirited performances that deliver the music at its finest.
 
Mendelssohn wrote three piano trios, but the first, with violin and viola joining the keyboard, has traditionally not been counted, since it was written when he was just eleven years old. The booklet says it’s his “first ever piece with multiple movements.” The trio’s neglect is a shame, because while it may not win any prizes it’s delightful for earnestness and easy tunefulness. You can clearly hear both the influence of the past and the Mendelssohn to come, especially in the preteen’s skittish scherzo (just 1:49 long) and a contrapuntal slow movement which betrays influences even of the baroque. This is one of just three available recordings.
 
The first numbered piano trio, in D minor, is a great leap forward, a masterpiece, and gets vibrantly played here. The same goes for the second trio - Felix and Fanny wrote all these pieces in minor keys - although in the second the opening movement (‘allegro energico e con fuoco’) is lacking in fuoco. This trio, one of Mendelssohn’s last works, may initially be harder to crack, but the performers really dig into the scherzo and finale, so best is emphatically saved for last.
 
Then there's Fanny Mendelssohn's own trio, a very fine, dramatic piece in D minor. The players use my least favorite of the four historical pianos here (a Schweighofer from 1854), but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of the performance.
 
One of this set’s pleasures is that a different historical piano is chosen for every piece, allowing the listener to “taste” four instruments. They span about 50 years and include an especially warm Broadwood from 1838. Photographs of all are included. There are also photographs of the four talented performers, but no biographies.
 
If you're interested in Mendelssohn on period instruments, it doesn't get much better than this. If you just want the complete trios, the same advice applies.
 
Brian Reinhart

Experience Classicsonline