We’re only just beginning to hear about them in Australia, but the British Sitkovetsky Piano Trio have been steadily collecting rave reviews in Europe and America, even being compared by one reviewer to “the Beaux Arts in their heyday”. That is not a compliment to be given lightly, but if like me you are unable to hear them on their visit here with Musica Viva, this album gives ample backing to the critic’s claim.
The trio – violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Wu Qian – all met at that great ‘humidicrib’ for British chamber players, the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey. They formed back in 2007 and, despite all being established soloists in their own right, they still manage to get together to exploit some of the richest repertoire in the chamber music canon.
For their debut album on BIS they chose two great Bohemian works, Dvořák's Trio No 3 in F Minor and Smetana’s G Minor work – both of them outpourings of grief – and the melancholic little gem, Josef Suk’s Elegy, much loved by palm court orchestras. Although both major works were composed in tragic circumstances – Dvořák's when his mother died and Smetana’s after the death of his eldest daughter Bedrˇiška (only one of his four daughters survived to adulthood) – they represent both composers at their very best.
Smetana’s work is perhaps the more personal in its emotional sweep. Anger and confusion as well as the heartbreaking tenderness of a father’s grief are beautifully handled by this assured ensemble. Their tempi are all excellently judged, they play like angels and their ensemble work is spot-on. This is a trio which is going to scale the heights. They stand alongside the Kungsbacka and Eggner brothers in the vanguard of the new generation.