Reviews of the Schubert CD:
"Finally, a revelatory
Schubert Trio recording"
" ... this disc is like a breath of fresh spring air ..."
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.
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
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.
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."
Laurence Vittes, Audiophile Audition
" ... the disc is a
second piano trio 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.
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 Broman's sweet violin tone matched beautifully by the
warmth of Jesper Svedberg's cello. The second movement is given grandeur
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.
much earlier and less substantial piano trio movement included here as a
makeweight is hardly less successful.
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."
Perry, Music Web-International
and sweep from a trio relishing the glories of Schubert
opening to this trio appears to take up the gauntlet thrown down by
Beethoven's mature piano trios – but how very different a path
Schubert takes. It's easy to sound strenuous at the beginning of
this movement ... but it's not a mistake the Kungsbacka Trio make,
sounding strong yet never belligerent ... . What is particularly
impressive is their confidence and sweep: ... 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 remaining movements are similarly impressive: the Mmuet/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 ... . 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
Kungsbacka fill out their disc with the early Sonatensatz, D28, a
delightful little petit four to complete the feast, elegantly played.
... this is certainly impressive playing, and a bargain at the price.
Harriet Smith, The Gramophone
are some splendid piano trios now playing and recording ... . 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.
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.
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 ... 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
David Hurwitz, Classics Today
(Artistic Quality 10/10, Sound Quality 10/10)
Schubert's two piano trios, Schumann described the E flat as more “spirited,
masculine and dramatic” than the “passive, lyrical and feminine” B
flat. Even ignoring the sexist stereotyping, it is hard to see how the E
flat is more spirited than its companion. It is, though, a more serious
and ambitious work, with a haunting C minor andante that would be on
many Schubertians’ desert island shortlist.
Kungsbacka Trio adds to its growing reputation with a performance that
combines polish, freshness and inventive characterization. The players
catch what Schumann dubbed the “repressed fury” of the first
movement, and avoid the trap of sentimentalising the contrasting lyrical
theme. The scherzo has an ideal lilt and lightness of touch; and the
Kungsbacka’s grace and verve vindicate their choice of Schubert’s
dangerously long original version of the finale.
the slow tempo for the andante here more a dirge than a melancholy,
stoical trudge-raised fleeting doubts. Occasionally, too, the cello
suffers in the balance. But this hardly detracts from a sympathetic,
thoroughly enjoyable performance. The early Haydnesque trio movement,
sprucely played, makes a delightful digestif".
Richard Wigmore, Daily Telegraph
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."
Reviews of the Mozart Vol.1 CD:
"[With their performances of his piano
trios,] Simon Crawford-Phillips, Malin Broman and Jesper Svedberg of the
Kungsbacka Piano Trio have produced this year's best Mozart recording
along with Claudio Abbado's symphonies on Deutsche Grammophon."
Martin Nyström, Dagens Nyheter
... The Kungsbacka Trio (named after a Swedish town where they
operate a music festival) delivers lively performances, on modern
instruments, with some inspired Mozart playing by pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips.
He pushes the tempo slightly in cadential passages for a sound that's
exciting without losing clarity or being overdone, and he is alert to
all the different ways the relationship among the three instruments is
treated. Consider the Adagio central movement of the Divertimento ..., where the violin comes in first and ingeniously destabilizes
the rhythm in such a way that caused the piece's original performers to
lose their places and be forced to begin again. The Kungsbacka
musicians capture the magic of this moment, a fine example of the
rampant genius of the young Mozart.
In general, a strong disc that ties together some tricky material and
offers plenty of enjoyment for chamber music enthusiasts. The sound,
from the small St. George's church-turned-concert hall in the British
town of Brandon Hill, is clear and bright."
James Manheim, AMG
Review of the Mozart Vol.2 CD:
routine about these absorbing performances from an enlightened trio
"Circumscribed Mozart this is not. The Kungsbacka Piano Trio
avoid the dispassionate literalism of so-called authenticity. They are
musicians of enlightened individual and collective probity who
incorporate stylistic niceties into interpretations that are all the
more authentic for being authentically felt, and absorbingly
communicated. Pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips has the leading role in
the music but he does not dominate the proceedings. ... [He] creates
tension not through a drily percussive attack but through a weight of
expression shared equally between both hands; and with a control of
instrumental colour and nuance, also a characteristic of his partners Malin Broman and Jesper Svedberg.
routine note-spinning here. Consider the tasteful decorations in the
first-movement exposition repeat of K548, the thoughtfully questing
consideration for its development beginning in G Minor, the lyrical,
effective interplay in the Andante cantabile and the microscopic rubatos
discreetly sprinkled in the Allegro finale to stop a descent into
mechanical glibness. Consider too how a similar level of artistry is
carried over in K564, hushed at the beginning of the D Minor section in
the first movement with the finale's "swing" of 6/8
appropriately captured. And vigilance isn't relaxed for K442 either
though. Maximilian Stadler's completions of these fragments aren't always
of Mozartian quality. The cello may sometimes be a touch backward but,
otherwise, recording quality is very good."
Nalen Anthoni, The Gramophone
If God wrote music, it would sound like this
enough Mozart's piano trios are not as often featured in the concert programs of
touring piano trios as one might expect. I'm not quite sure why this is, but my
suspicion is that for many musicians Mozart's music seems too simple, too
predictable, not showy enough. ... Actually Mozart's piano trios are such
delights as this CD and the earlier CD in this series show repeatedly. In the
hands of the young Kungsbacka Trio there are many moments of transport, of
magic, of ineffable beauty.
The Kungsbacka Trio was formed in 1997 and named for
the little Swedish city in which they gave their first performance. Its
members are the extraordinarily sensitive pianist, Simon
Crawford-Phillips, violinist Malin Broman and cellist Jesper Svedberg. One
hopes they keep recording for Naxos. Their earlier CD containing earlier
Mozart trios Mozart: Piano Trios K. 496 and K. 502; Divertimento in B flat
and the one with Schubert's E flat trio Schubert: Piano Trio 2 in E Flat
Major are worth hearing."
J Scott Morrison
Reviews of the Haydn CD:
"The Kungsbacka Trio has already made an
outstanding contribution to 18th-century piano trio recordings with its
Naxos set of Mozart (8.570519). This first volume of Haydn’s similarly
testifies to the ensemble’s taste and stylistic insight.
Famous moments here include the gipsy rondo
(“all’ongarese”) in the G major, and the F sharp minor’s central
adagio cantabile, which Haydn also used in one of his “London”
symphonies, No 102. But if our ears prick at these familiar passages,
the Kungsbacka’s playing ensures all four trios bear witness to the
variety, personality and sparkling invention that Haydn channelled into
this delightful and multifaceted music."
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph
"A wealthy widow with a deep knowledge of music proved an amiable companion for Haydn on his visits to London, their
relationship inspiring three of his happiest piano trios, the ‘Gypsy’ Rondo of the Twenty-fifth becoming one of his best-known melodies. The fabulous Kungsbacka Trio mix youthful joy
with the elegance and refinement that have become their trademark, the strings dancing around the immaculate playing of pianist, Simon Crawford Phillips. They add the equally
pleasing account of Thirty-first."
DD, Yorkshire Post
"... The Kungsbacka Trio ... came to international acclaim following their
success in the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. They are
ideally cast in this music, the light and airy quality of the strings
providing perfect partners for the immaculate playing of pianist, Simon
Crawford Phillips. One would fervently hope that they are asked to
complete a Haydn cycle for Naxos as it could well be the definitive
version. The recording quality is superb."
David Denton, David's Review Corner