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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, May 2011

The Trio Opus 100 is a multinational ensemble composed of award-winning pianist Oliver Schnyder, a student of Leon Fleisher and Ruth Laredo; Russian violinist Marina Yakovleva, who studied with Pierre Amoyal and has concertized as a soloist and chamber musician in Europe and the U.S.; and German cellist Claudius Herrmann, a protégé of David Geringas, who, since 1991, has served as principal cellist in the Zurich Opera Orchestra. How the three met and decided to form a piano trio is not addressed by the booklet notes, but this appears to be their first and so far only recording as an established ensemble. To say that with this album they have hit the jackpot or made a hole-in-one on their first try might be a bit of an overstatement, but without question, this performance of Schubert’s E♭-Major Trio ranks high beside the Icicle Creek and Tetzlaff/Vogt readings that made my earlier Want Lists.

The Andante con moto movement at the heart of this work is so sensitive to tempo that just one or two metronome notches in either direction can make or break a performance. Not con moto enough and the movement loses its premonitory edge; too con moto and it loses its tragic tread. So where does the Trio Opus 100 come in? At 9:08, exactly the same as the Gryphon Trio on Analekta, the ensemble pushes the envelope. The tempo is not as fast as that taken by the Florestan, but it’s a bit quicker, without quite sounding rushed, than I would prefer to hear it.

The first and third movements, with repeats taken, are very well done. The players are alert to each other’s phrasing inflections and the score’s dynamics, resulting in a fluid, well-integrated, and balanced performance. My only real complaint—and it should be lodged against Schubert rather than faulting the Trio Opus 100 for heeding the composer’s ill-advised directive—is that the lengthy repeat in the last movement is observed, stretching it out to almost 19 minutes. Not chancing to put their audience into a catatonic state, few ensembles risk taking this tedious and tiresome repeat, which contains material made up of highly repetitive patterns, a Schubert trademark familiar from his “Great C-Major” Symphony…perhaps we should give the Trio Opus 100 extra points for daring us to persevere. Wasn’t it at the first public performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony that a man in the audience stood up and cried, “I’d pay another kreutzer if the damn thing would only stop?” Aside from this one matter of the last movement exhausting my patience, I’d have to give this latest version of one of Schubert’s greatest masterpieces very high marks.

The so-called “Little” A-Major Sonata (to distinguish it from the composer’s penultimate A-Major Sonata, D 959) that fills out the disc is an amiable and enchanting work. I’ve long had a favorite recording of the piece, and it’s the one by Claudio Arrau. There’s something about the insouciant innocence of the opening melody, like an easygoing amble down a country lane lined by peaceful meadows, that Arrau captures instantly with a combination of gait, phrasing, and tone. No other pianist has ever made quite the same impression on me…

Obviously, the main interest of this release is the trio, and for that the disc is recommended…

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, January 2011

Schubert’s E Flat Trio was conceived on a grand scale, both in its length (when all repeats are observed) and its expressive depth. In spirit and substance it would seem the kind of work Mahler would have loved. The big first movement (Allegro), with its stately opening and sense of grandeur, is ultimately restless and troubled in its energetic flow, though one could hear the music as perky and uplifting, if a little conflicted. The second movement (Andante con motto) features one of Schubert’s most haunting melodies: somber in its sadness, it conveys a sense of loneliness, of loss. The alternate theme is consolatory, but does not relieve the gloom. The ensuing panel (Scherzo - Allegro moderato) is a country dance that clearly shifts away from the darkness. The finale (Allegro moderato), at nearly nineteen minutes, is another long-breathed creation, but here the brighter mood from the Scherzo remains, at least until the second movement main theme returns. Though its reappearances provoke tension, even a sense of chaos for a time, they ultimately fail to dispel the high spirits. The performance of the Opus 100 players (Oliver Schnyder, piano; Marina Yakovleva, violin; and Claudius Herrmann, cello) is excellent: they are alert to every change in mood, to seemingly dozens of gradations in dynamics and to every technical demand. Their tempos are judiciously chosen and the music seems to flow with a naturalness of expression, especially in the outer movements. The sensitive rendering of the various guises of the second movement theme was simply mesmerizing. And they make the performance work well, not an easy challenge when you observe the repeats in the work, as they do. The Wiener Trio (with Rudolf Buchbinder on piano), in a performance from 1972, also offered a fine and much leaner (repeat-less) rendition on Telefunken. Pianist Oliver Schnyder’s performance of the A Major Sonata was also convincing. I can remember Sviatoslav Richter’s EMI recording of the work: he took every first movement repeat, as I remember, and made the music sound so long-winded and repetitive in his attempt at faithfulness to the score. Alicia de Larrocha was more vital in this generally light work. In this case, choosing to pare down the music, as Schnyder does here, is wise. Schnyder’s finale is particularly spirited and the first movement has that charm and lightness one would expect in a superior performance. The sound reproduction in both works is vivid. Recommended.

James Manheim, December 2010

Trio Opus 100 is a multinational group of young chamber musicians, and one hopes they’ll go on to record other works besides the sprawling Schubert Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 100, from which they take their name. The recording was made in 2009 (not 2011 as is indicated on the back cover of the CD, which would have been a neat trick inasmuch as the album was released in 2010), and it’s paired with an earlier recording of the Piano Sonata in A major, D. 664, by pianist Oliver Schnyder. That works well, for it’s Schnyder’s musical personality that’s prominent in the trio, as well, and he’s a gifted Schubert interpreter. In the slow movements of both works he has the fine cantabile and the melancholy, yet soaring quality that marks the great Schubertians. Yet the collective decisions are likewise interesting and unusual. The trio is taken with all repeats, clocking in at nearly 50 minutes. The first movement is taken at a brisk (maybe too brisk, sample it) clip, weighting the entire sonata toward the vast finale. It would have been easy for the players to flag here, but they keep the momentum going throughout, aided by original touches like the punchy rhythms in the trio of the scherzo. Schnyder’s quiet A major sonata almost has the feel of an encore after these exertions. The pieces were recorded in different locations; the church where the trio was played is a bit too live, but there isn’t a lurch from one piece to the other. One looks forward to other “opus numbers” from this new group. Notes are in German and English.

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