BRAHMS & DVORAK
The Z.E.N. Trio
Deutsche Grammophon 481 6292 / ****1/2
The Z.E.N. Trio is formed by Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo, Korean cellist Esther Yoo and Armenian cellist Narek Haknazaryan, all young prize-winning musicians who were brought together by the BBC New Generation Artists programme in 2015. Their debut recording as a piano trio (its name is derived from their first names), coupling piano trios by two Central European musical giants, is a triumph of the globalisation of music.
Both Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), were well acquainted, the older German serving as a mentor to the young Bohemian. There is little that is zen in these performances. Brahms' youthful Piano Trio No.1 in B major (Op.8), brims with ardour and vitality, especially in the opening movement’s big tune and the ebullient Scherzo. Even if the composer had drastically revised it in his mature years, this later version nevertheless retains its original youthful spirit and fire.
This continues seamlessly into Dvorak's Piano Trio in E minor (Op.90), nicknamed “Dumky” as its five movements relive the essence of the Slavic folk lament known as the “dumka”. The dyed-in-wool melancholy and catchy rhythms are well captured by the youthful threesome, as is the rather apt quasi-gypsy encore, a heady arrangement of Brahms' Sixth Hungarian Dance. There is much to enjoy here.