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Susan Kagan
Fanfare, January 2008

The trio appears to be very much at home in the Schubert idiom. To begin with, tempos are perfect. The first movement Allegro of the E♭ Trio is fresh, vigorous, and joyous. In the development section, as the strings and piano trade themes, the build-up to the recapitulation is thrilling. The lament of the slow movement comes through without sentimentality, but with the inexorability of the trudging funeral march. The tempo and spirit of the finale, like the first movement, are fresh and joyous, making the return of the somber slow movement theme all the more effective. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Peter McCallum
Sydney Morning Herald, August 2007

The Kunsbacka Trio, who became known in Australia when they won the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, play [the Piano Trio in E flat, Op 100] with finely tuned and well-shaped vitality.

American Record Guide, February 2007

Schubert's E-flat Trio is one of his very finest works. Written in the year before he died, it shows his full mastery; it was played at the first and only public concert of Schubert's compositions during his lifetime. In its original form the trio had a very long finale, so Schubert cut 99 measures from it when it was published. In this recording those measures are restored (and the movement with repeat lasts more than 19 minutes). The B-flat trio movement would be of little consequence were it not written when Schubert was only 15. It is remarkable to see how well proportioned and fluent his music was at such a tender age. The Kungsbacka Trio (named after the Swedish town where they gave their first performance) takes a relaxed, loving approach to Schubert. Tempos are a little slower than average, but the music doesn't sound sluggish, owing largely to the pianist's crisp touch. These players are good Schubertians. I am pleased they don't overplay and push the music; rather, they let it unfold without undue emphasis. But there are many competing performances that take precedence. First, if you skip repeats and the long version of the finale, you can get both mature trios on one disc; both the Guarneri Trio Prague and Zukerman, Harrell, and Ashkenazy are very good, the former relaxed, the latter more outgoing. Other excellent recordings include Stern, Rose, and Istomin (for warmth and affection) and the Fontenay Trio (for a crisper approach).

Harriet Smith
Gramophone, November 2006

Confidence and sweep from a trio relishing the glories of Schubert The opening to this trio appears to take up the gauntlet thrown down by Beethoven's mature piano trio- but how very different a path Schubert takes. It's easy to sound strenuous at the beginning of this movement and the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips, 7/86) wander dangerously close to that minefield. But it's not a mistake the Kungsbacka Trio make, sounding strong yet never belligerent, and finding almost as many colours as the miraculous Florestan recording (Hyperion, 11/02). What is particularly impressive is their confidence and sweep: more extrovert than the soul-searching Florestan Trio, they relish the outgoing E flat major (surely Schubert was inspired by the fact that for Beethoven this was the ultimate heroic key). For the second movement, the Kungsbacka choose their trudging tempo carefully, vividly reminding us that this work dates from the same year as Winterreise. The Florestan by comparison, are almost power-walking, while the Beaux Arts lag behind, exhausted. The remaining movements are similarly impressive: the Minuet/Scherzo hybrid, a tail-chasing canon, is great fun, the Trio stomping but never coarse. Unusually, the Kungsbacka choose the composer's uncut original finale (also offered by the Florestan Trio, as an additional track alongside the shorter version). It's one of those extraordinary Schubert movements that starts unassumingly and yet stretches out to the horizon, seemingly unstoppable. In the hands of the Kungsbacka, there are no longueurs. The Kungsbacka fill out their disc with the early Sonatensatz, D28, a delightful little petit four to complete the feast, elegantly played. They might not possess quite the subtlety of the Florestan, but this is certainly impressive playing, and a bargain at the price.

Tim Perry
MusicWeb International, November 2006

I first came across the Kungsbacka Piano Trio at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 1999. I attended a number of the heats of that competition and remember being impressed by these musicians - though I cannot remember for the life of me what they played! They won the piano trio section of the competition and the audience choice award, but interestingly it was the second and third placed piano trios who won recording contracts with Naxos. Neither of those ensembles seems actually to have cut a disc with Naxos - at least, there is nothing in either group’s name in the current catalogue. Seven years later, though, the Kungsbacka have recorded an all-Schubert programme for Naxos and the disc is a winner. Schubert’s second piano is not as easy to listen to as his first. This is partly because of its length and partly because of the sheer wealth of melodic ideas which Schubert crams into the piece.Here, though, it has a rare cogency and freshness, and is a delight from first note to last. The first movement springs into being with life and lilt. The Kungsbacka’s ability to open the music up and keep it flowing stems from their focus on maintaining a firm pulse on the first beat of each bar, such that the flood of melodic fragments that are woven into this first movement never have a chance to untangle. Simon Crawford Phillips must take much of the credit for this. He never seeks to dominate the proceedings, but he binds the whole together with sparkling pianism. His partners are similarly light in their touch, with Malin Bronman's sweet violin tone matched beautifully by the warmth of Jesper Svedberg's cello. The second movement is given granduer by superb blending of parts. The scherzo is all charm. Even the finale, performed here in its extended original version, is so gorgeous, fresh and alive that you do not want it to end. The much earlier and less substantial piano trio movement included here as a makeweight is hardly less successful. There are no rough edges in these performances. Together the Kungsbackas exude lightness, charm and grace. Dynamics are scrupulously observed, giving life and context to passages - in the first and last movements of the second piano trio in particular - which can sound repetitive when played by lesser musicians. The Naxos recording is perfectly balanced, with violin in the left channel, cello is the right and piano positioned centre-right. The effect is that of sitting in the best seats of a recital hall. Naxos' general policy is to avoid duplication in its catalogue. Allowing the Kungsbackas to record Schubert's second piano trio seems like a departure from that policy, until one realises that this recording is intended to sit alongside the one already on the books, with the inclusion of the original finale the point of difference. Given the brilliance of this disc, though, surely Naxos will make an exception and allow this remarkable young ensemble to record Schubert's first trio. And, well stocked as Naxos' piano trio larder is, there are still some gaps just begging to be filled by the Kungsbackas. How about some Joachim Raff, for example?

David Hurwitz, September 2006

There are some splendid piano trios now playing and recording, as recent releases by the likes of the Florestan Trio (Hyperion), the Abegg Trio (Tacet), and the Smetana Trio (Supraphon) attest. On evidence here, the Kungsbacka Trio has nothing to fear from the competition, even in this oft-recorded music. Schubert's Second trio is not the easiest piece to bring off. Despite its typically generous fund of melody and its unusually varied colors and textures, this is a very long piece of music. When played, as here, with the original version of its finale (including repeats), it lasts more than 50 minutes, an extraordinary length even for a mature work that suffers from no significant formal weaknesses. A successful performance, then, is all about timing and flow, aside from the general requirement of beautiful ensemble playing at all times. Here the Kungsbacka Trio really excels, finding in all four movements ideal tempos that allow for maximum textural clarity without any sacrifice of brilliance. You can hear this most obviously in the second movement, like that of the Ninth Symphony one of Schubert's unforgettable, bittersweet marches, and most particularly in the finale. It's obvious that these players have got it right when the music of the second movement returns amid the development section: it makes you stop and say "Wait a moment--haven't I heard this before?" The scherzo also manages to be unusually lively and characterful, but still "Allegro moderato", and moreover a different Allegro moderato than that of the finale. In short, this performance offers both technical excellence and interpretive intelligence in equal measure. Pianist Simon Crawford Phillips in particular knows exactly when to accompany and when to be brilliant. His partners play with a warm, rich tone, terrific intonation, and clearly relish Schubert's use of coloristic devices (such as pizzicato) to provide timbral contrast. There are many fine recordings of this trio, including one on Naxos by the excellent Stuttgart Piano Trio, but this one belongs with the best of them. By the way, it also sounds terrific on an iPod and makes a fantastic after-dinner walk or aerobic workout, especially since the coupled early Trio ("Sonatensatz") in B-flat D. 28 brings the disc timing to just a smidge over a full hour. But whether you're relaxing at home or moving about in some fashion, you'll enjoy this very much.

Laurence Vittes
Audiophile Audition, August 2006

Despite a virtual fantasy league galaxy of superstars for competition, beginning with the Busch Trio in 1935, not to mention Horszowki-Schneider-Casals and Rubinstein-Szeryng-Fournier and a host of others, there has not been a completely satisfactory recording of Schubert’s second Piano Trio. Like the first, the writing is full of inspired tunes and harmonies, with each instrument getting many wonderful things to do, but the integration of the three instruments is not handled well by the composer, leading to clunky phrasing and unconvincing momentum, problems which most recordings do not begin to address. Each movement presents its own challenges, although the emotionally complex slow movement, with its plaintive main theme (including a very curious grace note whose presence and importance remains unresolved), is at least well-known through Stanley Kubrick’s use of it in his film Barry Lyndon. The lack of a great performance has now been dealt with. This performance is so irresistibly happy and (appropriately) carefree, so relaxed in its handling of the instrumental detail, line and phrasing, that it would be the first choice at any price. Nor are the moments of mystery ignored; the pianist especially is willing to use “white space” to create atmosphere and anticipation. It is a remarkable accomplishment, enhanced by a gorgeous recording made at St. George’s Church, Brand Hill, in Bristol. The performance even includes the usually cut (and very interesting if also very busy) 99 bars. The Trio (violinist Malin Broman, cellist Jesper Svedberg and pianist Simon Crawford Phillips), formed in 1997, takes its name from the Swedish town in which it gave its first performance and has established an annual chamber music festival, now in its sixth year.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, August 2006

Though we may be in the midst of a hot summer, this disc is like a breath of fresh spring air. The music is Schubert at his best: one lovely melody running into another like a string of pearls. One can sense the joy that these wonderful musicians experience as they play this masterpiece of the chamber repertoire. Good taste and virtuosity abound, and the sparklingly live recording is a joy to hear.

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