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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 23 (1875) [32:57]
Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat, Op. 87 (1890) [34:21]
The London Bridge Piano Trio (Daniel Tong, piano; Kate Gould, cello; Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin)
Guy Pomeroy (viola)
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, 2014
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD107 [67:20]

A most satisfying coupling of an earlier work (the fresh, free-flow Op. 23) and the later and more substantive Op. 87, beautifully recorded and presented.

The booklet notes suggest the influence of Schubert, particularly that composer’s B flat Trio, on Op. 23, and one can hear that in the sun-drenched first movement (albeit a Czech sun rather than an Austrian one). The first movement, around a quarter of an hour, reminds us that in his earlier years Dvořák could indeed rival Schubert for heavenly length—think of some of those early string quartets. The sense of melodies falling over one another to make it to the page is palpable here. The London Bridge Trio, augmented by violist Guy Pomeroy, give a dynamic reading of the first movement; the superbly turned ending (which diminuendos suddenly into a more interior space) is beautifully managed and offers in itself an indication of the tranquillity of the theme of the Theme and Variations central panel. This is a multi-faceted movement, full of joy and play along the way. All credit to the nimble articulation of Daniel Tong, but also to the wonderful string exchanges. The finale acts as both Scherzo and Finale. The clean-cut performance is a joy. Pomeroy’s contributions in particular are most engaging; violinist Tamsin Waley-Chen can appear rather harsh at the higher dynamics, unfortunately, but the recommendation remains.

It is Brahms that looms over the E flat Trio. Immediately the opening statement of the opening Allegro con fuoco takes us to a different world; a little more fire from the musicians here would not have gone amiss. Ironically, when they do try to inject that spirit (towards the end of the first movement), the effect is rather rough. Cellist Kate Gould excels in the long-breathed melodies that open the Lento, while the sparser textures dared by Dvořák are superbly effective. The London Bridge Trio seems to excel at Dvořák’s more interior expressions. No missing the folk elements to the splendid Allegro moderato that follows, a movement that combines scherzo, minuet and landler; there is a hint of cimbalom in the piano part, too. The finale has a gypsy accent to it, but is just a touch studio-bound here when Dvořák asks for maximal ebullience.

Pianist Daniel Tong provides excellent booklet notes. These are enjoyable accounts, particularly that of the earlier work.

An intriguing aspect of the ensemble is its name. This is the trio based in London that is named after composer Frank Bridge, and not named after the connective construction linking one side of the Thames to another, a situation made even more confusing (or perhaps this is a photographic sleight that mirrors Dvořák’s playfulness in Op. 23) by the cover photo which shows a London bridge (Waterloo Bridge, in fact); that photo was possibly, even probably, taken from a location near London Bridge. Very good, if it is deliberate.

Colin Clarke

 




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