Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio No.6 in E flat, Op.70 No.2 [26:56]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op.49 (1839) [29:30]
Trio Santoliquido
rec. 1952 (Beethoven) and 1953 (Mendelssohn), Beethoven-Saal, Hanover

The vintage recordings of the Trio Santoliquido continue to emerge on a variety of labels. Pristine Audio has long been active and in fact it released both these works on two separate discs some years ago – the Mendelssohn on PACM038, Beethoven on PACM044. In addition it has reissued the Archduke on PACM058 and the Brahms Piano Quartets on PACM067, a disc I reviewed a while back. That’s a brief back-story to the matter in hand.

The Trio was pianist Ornella Puliti Santoliquido, violinist Arrigo Pellicia and cellist Massimo Amfitheatrof. Their Brahms brought out lighter textures than one generally finds in performances and the two recordings here, made in the Beethoven-Saal in Hanover in 1952-53 for DG, show comparable affiliations with Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Their wartime Ghost trio 78-rpm set is justly renowned and has also been reissued, but its opus mate is no less successful, though recorded a decade or so later. From the long, veiled introduction – perfectly controlled and poised – the listener can appreciate the most subtle refinements of their playing. The string unisons are beautifully calibrated but never saturated, whilst Santoliquido springs rhythm deftly and plays with gorgeous lightness of touch. Each movement has an array of qualities to recommend it whilst the more tempestuous elements of the trio are equally well dealt with. The ensemble doesn’t make a big-boned sound but plays in the best traditions of Italian chamber playing.

Mendelssohn’s Op.49 trio opens at a fractionally broader tempo than was often the case at this period and, indeed, earlier. But it is rich in detail and generates its own decisive sense of momentum, buttressed by playing that is sonorous in places but always elegant. The pianism is utterly delightful, not just in the opening but throughout – light, dextrous, perfectly weighted. Tempi make perfect sense, and ensemble is splendid throughout.

These two vital and sensitive performances deserve an honoured place in the discography of both works. The transfers have been carried out with great care. Forgotten Records generally, as here, dispenses with notes but that doesn’t – for me – lessen admiration.

Jonathan Woolf