13 piano trios squeezed onto just two discs is a steal, but we’re talking CPE Bach and not Schubert, and there’s the issue of whether these pieces are piano trios in the accepted sense. Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach’s London publisher issued the Wq 89 set in 1776, describing them as “Six Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Pianoforte accompanied by Violin and Violincello”. The composer variously referred to them as trios, sonatas or “Trios (which are also Solos)”. They were an instant success, and Bach added a further set shortly afterwards, early examples of what would become one of the most significant chamber music forms. He presumably imagined them played on a domestic square piano. The Linos Piano Trio are the first group to record the trios on modern instruments.
Balance is never an issue; pianist Prach Boondiskulchok’s light, crisp playing is ideal, never swamping Konrad Elias-Trostmann and Vladimir Waltham on violin and cello. These are fabulously entertaining works.
Take the opening seconds of the earliest, E minor trio, the keyboard’s prim opening gesture interrupted by a shrill string shriek, or the serene C major chords at the start of its successor. Bach’s volatility is extraordinary; he’ll toss you a smile one minute and bare his teeth just seconds later.
Take the beginning of the Wq 91 F major trio, the mellow piano intro abruptly shoved aside within just a few bars. Or the cascading flourish which opens the Wq 90 C major trio; the string parts aren’t virtuosic, but the keyboard writing would make little sense without them. Some moments should provoke laughter, as with the stuttering finale of Wq 90’s A minor work, though Bach’s melting slow movements offer relief. They tend to be incredibly compact, a favourite being the tiny “Poco andante” of Wq 91, soft, sustained string chords giving meaning to the keyboard part.
This music will enrich anyone’s life. The performances are consistently excellent, with Boondiskulchok’s notes both scholarly and entertaining.