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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1810-1849)
Piano Trio No. 1, op. 49 (1839) [29:23]
Piano Trio No. 2, op. 66 (1845) [27:50]
Trio Metral
rec. 2018, Church Bon Secours, Paris
APARTÉ MUSIC AP198 [57:15]

Trio Metral are a young French trio of siblings, Victor (piano) Joseph (violin) and Justine (cello). They won both the official and popular choice sections at the Joseph Haydn International Competition in 2017. They have jumped into the deep end with their first venture into the recording studio. The two Mendelssohn trios have garnered more than 60 recordings each, and any new recordings have big shadows to emerge from. For me, the top two are the Sitkovetsky Trio (BIS - review) and the Florestan Trio (Hyperion).

These works are probably only exceeded in my affections in the genre by the first two Brahms trios. All Mendelssohn’s works are, of course, the product of a young man, but the two trios are from his maturity, and for me, his best chamber music by some distance (devotees of the Octet, please don’t write in). They have the characteristic Mendelssohn verve and joy, but there is also a sense of nervous energy, even unease, in places, giving them a great depth.

I was surprised to find that these readings are relatively reserved, not necessarily what one would expect from a group of twenty-somethings. Compared to the similarly-aged Sitkovetsky Trio (I’m only going by photos), Trio Metral takes the fast movements more slowly and the slow movements more quickly, bringing them in line with the Florestan Trio. I did enjoy the Metral’s performances a lot more than those of their more experienced and highly lauded countrymen, Trio Wanderer.

That said, I did have reservations about some of the interpretive choices: the final movement of Trio 1 (Allegro assai appassionato) seemed more agitated than passionate and conversely, the first movement (Molto allegro agitato), more passionate than agitated. However, the closing Allegro appassionato of Trio 2 is intense and very fine.

The playing of each performer is beyond reproach: those of you who have read any of my reviews will know that I’m “allergic” to wiry and shrill violin sounds, and I’m pleased to report that Joseph Metral exhibits none of these characteristics. The placing of the microphones has resulted in a very natural sound, and there are no distracting sniffs. The booklet notes are relatively brief and say nothing about the performers.

Interpretative reservations aside, I think Trio Metral has quite a future and I look forward to hearing their next recording. This debut recording is not going to supplant anyone’s Mendelssohn favourites, but I think trio aficionados should make a mental note to keep an eye out for this ensemble.

David Barker

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