Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 7
Brilliant Classics must love Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s two early piano trios. Within a year of releasing the Trio Archè’s CD, the label brings out these works again, this time with the Trio Mezzena, Patria, Ballario. This particular ensemble pursues a more emotive, volatile path in relation to the Archè’s classical containment. They imbue the second theme of the D major Trio’s first movement more subjectively and passionately, (an effect possibly enhanced by the closer-miked strings), in contrast to the Archè’s steadier, cooler approach. Likewise, the MPB’s Allegro Finale proves more liberal in the way of tempo fluctuations and emphatic accents, yet the Archè’s continuity of pacing and stronger ensemble discipline wins out. While the second movement should start at a scurrying, rhythmically unpredictable Presto, the MPB players tread heavily and coarsely as if running through quicksand with ill-fitting galoshes.
As for the more ambitious Op. 7 Trio, it’s a toss-up. The Archè’s pianist Francesco Cipoletta imbues the lengthy first movement’s opening solo with a lighter touch and stronger sense of line, yet I prefer MPB’s suppler execution and faster tempo for the second-movement Largo. Neither group, however, quite matches the MDG label’s Munich Piano Trio’s consistent finesse and sophisticated repartée, and it’s a pity that their reference versions remain “out-of-print”. That leaves the Trio Di Venezia on Nuova Era (available via download only) as your best Wolf-Ferrari Trio cycle option as of January, 2020. Then again, is Brilliant Classics planning yet another version?