This is a refreshing disc of rarely heard pieces; the musicians are thoughtful, and their playing very detailed. The violinist plays passages eloquently that would be rough-hewn in others’ hands. In the climax of the Smetana Trio’s third movement, the pianist takes you to the top of the keyboard with a blistering arpeggio, leaving you perched precariously on an unresolved scale before conjuring up a hushed new chord.
Shostakovich wrote his winsome Trio No. 1 as a teenager (as Bernstein wrote his Trio). It has plenty of romance and charm; the artists approach the piece almost reverently, letting it speak for itself rather than spoon-feeding you all the emotions you “should” feel.
The first movement of the Bernstein is full of counterpoint, and the melodies are almost austere; the development is logical and axiomatic. All this is tempered by a quiet ending. Jazziness and general humor poke their heads up in the second movement, and the players know just what this sometimes-hodge-podge music needs, whether lightness or force and vigor. Even the emphatic parts have nuanced internal phrasing. The sound is clean and balanced, except for a touch of distortion in the loudest passages.