Selection of Czech Trio concert reviews
The Czech Trio (Prague, Dvořák Hall, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Series) presented an ambitious programme: Piano Trio in A minor by P. I. Tchaikovsky and Dumky by Antonín Dvořák. Two of the most renowned works of the trio repertoire, difficult both technically and also by way of expression, they require a high degree of maturity on the part of the ensemble members. The Czech Trio, conscious of the fact that they have attained this maturity, presented the compositions with inner detachment, technical precision and exemplary musicality.
The Tchaikovsky trio is not a frequent repertoire item because the interpreters have several pitfalls to weather, and success is not guaranteed. With a clear conception of their own interpretation in mind, the Czech Trio put the whole charge of their musicality as well as the artistic maturity they have achieved into the first movement and presented an effective meditation on the subject of death, overlapping into catharsis through the variations of the second movement. The trio fulfilled the composer's aim with
understanding and with their own artistic approach, supported by their many years' experience in chamber music interpretation and the well-balanced solo contribution of the individual players. The precise pianist with his supreme poles of dynamic values upheld his unstated position of leadership, the cellist with his exhilarating tone based on virtuoso technique and breadth of expression, his co-player par excellence; the firm, energetic sound of the violinist whose form of expression is a far cry from attempting any romanticized effect - this threesome thus has the chance to put in their own personal musical contribution. The trio's coordination was perfect and their sound harmony was therefore beautifully balanced. Dvorak's Dumky Trio only confirmed the high qualities of the ensemble, which left the best of impressions in the listeners with this elevating piece of music.
Eva Vítová, Harmonie
Spontaneous Music Making by Mature Artists
Czech Republic is often dubbed as the treasury of string players and had a long tradition of the finest chamber musicians, but the Czech Trio has played an especially important role. The Trio has been in existence for over 100 years with several generations of players. The players have always been chosen from the best chamber musicians, rather than star soloists.
Therefore, the Czech Trio's performance traditionally has never been extravagant, but rather, shone with true musical insights. The last generation of the Trio with pianist Palenicek was representative of that style, but the present members of the Trio, Langer /piano/, Vlachová /violin/ and Petráš /cello/, also lives up to that tradition.
The concert on June 26th at Denki Bunka Kaikan, part of the Nagoya International Chamber Music Festival, opened with Haydn's Trio No. 39. Quite often the lovely melody of the beginning of the first movement is played much too preciously, but the Czech Trio made it speak for itself, simple and unadorned.
That spontaneous interpretation matched the rest of the piece nicely and balanced exquisite by the lively Hungarian Finale.
The second piece was a trio by a Czech contemporary composer, Kalabis. The writing style may not be the most avant-guard, but the resulting resonance was ingenious and the piece as well as the performance resembled the American Modernism.
The last piece on the program was Dvořák's Trio No. 3 in F minor. This is one of Dvořák's masterpieces, along with the more often-played Dumky, but this trio has a tighter structure and wider scope. The performance was dynamic and exciting, but again, nothing was forceful or artificial, and the music flowed naturally. Even the lyrical third movement, which is so often played with exaggerated sentimentality, was executed with classical balance and spontaneity.
The Trio offered four encores including a movement from Dumky. An added feeling of relaxation made the performance even more enjoyable.
Today even in the world of classical music, superstars and idols are applauded. This evening's concert by the Czech Trio was a refreshing concert of true music, played by mature musicians.
Senichi Nishizaki, Nippon Keizai Shimbun
Poster of Czech Trio's concert at Suntory Hall
in Tokyo, 2003
Selection of Czech Trio recording reviews
Smetana: Trio in G minor Op. 15
Dvořák: Dumky Trio in E minor Op. 90
Arco Diva, UP 0017
These are two of the best known Czech trios and are here performed by a trio that must know them very well. They are both "dark" works and the background to their composition does help when getting to know them.
The Smetana Piano Trio was written following the death due to scarlet fever of the composer’s three year old daughter Bedriska in 1855. During three years Smetana lost three daughters but it was Bedřiška that had already shown promise. Her loss hit the composer greatly. Liszt liked the work but otherwise it was not a success and not published until 1879.
All the movements are in G minor and the first is almost unrelenting in its tragic overtones. The beginning is very effective with the violin’s solo cries. Musically the format underlines the tragedy. The Czech trio has a real feeling for this music and is very effective in transmitting a sense of loss. The second movement has some lovely "Slavonic" playing from the violin and a more resigned tranquility. Lovely plaintive playing dominates the middle section before anguish returns. There is a real feeling of ensemble here and this is well captured by the engineers. The finale starts with much more energy and uses a theme from his piano sonata. However any positive feelings dissipate with funereal tones towards the end. This is beautifully played and as the piece comes to a highly charged conclusion, the trio plays as one. Not an easy listen but the piece finds splendid advocacy from the Czech players.
Dvořák’s Dumky Trio is the most famous of his four piano trios and is second only to the American Quartet among his chamber music. The name Dumky comes from a Dumka which is a Ukrainian ballad; there are six in this work and therefore the six movements are more like a collection of songs, firstly slow, followed by a Slavonic dance. The first movement typifies this duality. A slow sad opening is followed by a gypsy style rondo. Likewise in the later moments we have tender and somber reflection but as always with splendid Dvořákian melodies. The Czech players clearly know this piece inside out and give a spirited performance. There are many good versions of this much loved piece but I will be very happy to pick this one from the shelves and enjoy the Czech Trio’s authentic performances. To take one example, there is marvelous interplay in the masterful Allegro. As the piece comes to a wistful but energetic conclusion we sense a real feeling of Bohemia inherent in many of Dvorak’s works.
This is a well performed disc of two pieces which benefit from closer attention. I am now much more aware of the background. The Czech Trio has been in existence for a hundred years and the present combination is also soloists and teachers.
David R. Dunsmore