I'm finding this recording rather late in the game. It was recorded in 2006 and released the following year. But better late than never; it is glorious in every way.
I almost always hear good things from Analekta. And I've enjoyed several discs from the wonderful Gryphon Trio (Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Dvorak on Mirare and Analekta, etc.). So I was shocked I had not yet heard this 2007 Schubert offering. And I couldn't be happier with it - or more moved by it. It is emotionally involving music-making of the highest possible order. And the recording simply could not be bettered - and that can't be taken for granted. Placing a small ensemble at just the perfect perspective (distance), within the perfect acoustic, with perfectly focused sound, is not an easy task. And too many engineers don't get it right. But Analekta has made a specialty of recording chamber music, and get it right they most certainly do.
Suffice it to say these are just about the most glorious, musically rewarding performances of the Schubert Piano Trios I've ever encountered. With perfectly chosen tempos everywhere, their playing blossoms with the most exquisite phrasing and musically singing lines, full of insight from beginning to end. My previous favorite, the classic 1970 Stern/Rose/Istomin recording on RCA, betters it for sheer vigor and precision of articulation. And the RCA recording provides thrilling presence - placing the group a bit closer to the listener than does Analekta. However, both are equally rewarding, albeit in slightly different ways.
But this one has a distinct advantage over most others: couplings. These two Trios, combined, are just too long to squeeze onto a single disc (usually 80+ minutes). So we usually get them spread over two discs, resulting in short playing time for each one. Analekta has the perfect solution, and an invaluable one at that.
On disc one, after the main offering, we hear 'Piano Trio in One Movement in B-flat', written when Schubert was just 15. The excellent booklet describes it as being "a charming Allegro imbued with Mozartian elegance". That's exactly how I hear it, and it is a real find. And a real treasure. I immediately listened to it a second time.
Disc two gives us another rarity, the 'Piano Trio in E-flat', an Adagio subtitled, "Notturno". The booklet tells us this was likely a discarded slow movement for the Trio No. 1 in Bb. And it would be a shame if it had indeed been discarded, never to be heard again. For it is also wonderful - and substantial, lasting a full 10 minutes.
And bravo to the production team which had the foresight to consider these two extras to be of such importance - and interest - they write about them first in the booklet.
In sum, this is an invaluable release. Not to be missed (like I almost did).