Slippedisc daily comfort zone (29): Best-ever piano trio?

Slippedisc daily comfort zone (29): Best-ever piano trio?

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

May 12, 2021

The Arensky trio was a Heifetz favourite. It still hits the spot.

Watch out for that Adagio.


  • Edgar Self says:

    Utterly delicious, Norman, thank you. Russia is fich in such tfios … Stanchinsky, Alexander Goldenweiser, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and a second one by Arensky, who wrote the enchanting waltz that Harold Bauer and Ossip Gabrilowitsch recorded. It’s in the first of his five suites for two pianos.

    When Heifetz performed this Arensky trio on stage with Leonard Pennario and Gregor Piatigorsky, he publicly praised Pennario with an audible “Bravo!” after the scherzo’s fast, difficult piano runs. Pennario was so surprised he nearly missed his next entrance.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    To my mind, Arensky’s finest work by a wide margin, and along with the Tchaikovsky A minor trio and the second Rachmaninoff trio, one of an incredible nexus of commemorative works, each reliant on its predecessors.

  • E says:

    This was a delight. Thank you.

  • A fine and most attractive work that deserves its popularity, but the best? I think not. At the top of that tree are to be found Beethoven’s two Op. 70 and his Op. 97, Brahms’ second, the Tchaikovsky, the Ravel, the Fauré and Bridge’s two surviving ones, especially the latter.

  • Francisco says:


  • Rob says:

    Arensky’s music is staid and unmemorable, he didn’t have Tchaikovsky’s or Glazunov’s genius to create strong, memorable melodies.
    Tchaikovsky’s piano trio is the masterpiece of course.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Arensky did not reach the heights on a reliable basis, I agree, but his trio and his variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky, and a few shorter works, are a pretty good legacy and are memorable.

      For the trio in D minor I’d suggest the old 78s, reissued by Biddulph, with Eileen Joyce, piano, Henri Temianka violin and Antonio Sala, cello.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    And what are the Schuber trios? Chopped liver?

    • David K. Nelson says:

      But Stephen I love chopped liver!
      I’d also put in a word for the piano trios of Schumann and Mendelssohn. A fun challenge to play if nothing else, maybe more fun to play than to listen to repeatedly.
      I find myself listening to the Debussy trio, an early work, more often as well.
      And I do suggest giving the John Ireland Phantasie Trio a try, particularly if you like Frank Bridge’s trios.

  • Marfisa says:

    Thank you for reminding us of the film of Heifetz – Rubenstein – Piatigorsky ‘rehearsing’ Schubert and Mendelssohn. You can keep Arensky.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    “Best ever?” No, but one of the most appealing and attractive, with memorable themes in the first movement tightly developed (not so common chez les Russes…!), wonderful, brilliant scherzo and beautifully lyrical slow movement. The weakness is the finale, which runs out of steam, falling back on the previous themes. I think it will always have its place, for its melodic appeal and its rewarding writing for the instruments.

    Edgar Self beat me to it recounting the Heifetz “Bravo!” to Pennario in Carnegie Hall(?). Pennario said later that it was his true moment of glory on stage! Their recording, with Piatigorsky, remains, for me, one of the legendary Trio Moments in history, almost justifying the “Best Ever” claim, even tho i realise that Tchaik is greater in Russian literature…..
    Personally, i find the Rach trio just too sprawling and over-ambitiously epic, one of his less successful works. The Shostakovich(s) enter yet another expressive world.

  • Edgae Self says:

    It’s worth noting that Arensky died of tuberculosis at the age of 44. Slexander Goldenweiser wrote his beautiful one-movement piano trio in memory of Rachmaninoff, in variation form on a Russian theme, and recorded it with David Oistrakh and Rostroopovich.

  • Peter says:

    Is the expression “Best ever piano trio” intended to refer to the work or the ensemble playing it ? Or is it intentionally ambiguous ?

    Either way, clearly a subjective opinion being stated as an objective fact.