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7. August 2013
"They make a fine impression"

Gramophone, August 2013, Richard Wigmore

First disc for Schnyder and his Zurich-based piano trio

No pussyfooting here: for their CD debut, the young Zurich-based Oliver Schnyder Trio plunge boldly in with what must be the most recorded post-Beethoven piano trios. They make a fine impression, too especially in their lyrically beguiling performance of the B flat Trio (D898). The opening Allegro’s second theme begins truly pianissimo, with a quality of gentle Schubertian Sehnsucht. With a wide dynamic range, the players generate a splendidly combative climax in the development, and sensitively time and colour Schubert’s nonchalant sideslip to G flat at the recapitulation. The strings serenade alluringly in the Scherzo’s Trio, while the finale is fleet and airborne, with a nice lilt to the rustic polonaise episode. To my ears, though, Schnyder and his collegues overdo the dreamy introspection of the Andante. Other performances, including the Florestan, Vienna Piano Trio and András Schiff and friends, are no less tender but give the music more of Schubert’s prescribed poco mosso flow. They also lift the rhythms by gently pointing the many marked accents, which the Schnyder Trio tend to smooth over.
The tempo of the E flat Trio’s haunting C minor Andante con moto, somewhere between a stoical march and a doleful Winterreise trudge, is tricky to judge. The Schnyders deny the con moto and emphasise the trudge. Cellist Benjamin Nyffenegger shapes the opening solo with grave inwardness. But the danger of this tempo is that the contrasting E flat theme sounds over-solemn where the mood should lighten into a rarefied dance – as it does in the three recordings cited above.
After the E flat Trio’s premiere, Schubert lopped 100 bars out of the finale. The Schnyders opt for the original, including exposition repeat. There’s deft, sparkling pianism from Oliver Schnyder himself in the cascades of semiquavers and Schubert’s delightful cimbalom effects. But to vindicate its many recurrences, the ambling main theme needs more rhythmic point and variety, a touch of playfulness too – which it duly gets in the three rival recordings. While those would still be my chosen versions, with the Florestan ahead by a whisker, I’m glad to have heard the Schnyder’s performances, always accomplished, often much more than that.

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