Trio Zimbalist’s ‘Piano Trios of Weinberg, Auerbach, and Dvořák’ Shows Versatility and Virtuosity

Liner notes to the album connect these pieces as works “composed under the shadows of troubled and traumatic political histories”

By Miranda Wilson | From the May-June 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

This debut album from Trio Zimbalist presents Dvořák’s “Dumky” Trio alongside lesser-known works by Mieczysław Weinberg and Lera Auerbach. On the surface, the three works seem to have few commonalities, but liner notes to the album connect them as works “composed under the shadows of troubled and traumatic political histories.” Weinberg (1919–96), a Holocaust survivor, suffered further shocking persecutions by the Soviet government; Auerbach (born 1973) authored her first piano trio as a political refugee from the Soviet Union. It’s a bold combination of styles, but Trio Zimbalist pulls it off, demonstrating versatility as well as virtuosity.


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Piano Trios of Weinberg, Auerbach, and Dvořák, Trio Zimbalist (Curtis Studio)
Piano Trios of Weinberg, Auerbach, and Dvořák, Trio Zimbalist (Curtis Studio)

The album begins with the Weinberg work, with a Bach-like opening that quickly evolves into the composer’s modernist octatonic idiom. Trio Zimbalist’s pure, direct tone quality brings out the catharsis of the third movement, Poem, whose meditative beginning builds into mayhem and catastrophe. Weinberg’s finale returns to the neo-Baroque in intertwining polyphonic lines, but with harmonic displacements at the half-step disrupting the shape of the melody.

Next is Auerbach’s first trio, whose short first movement prefaces a serious Andante lamentoso. Here, cellist Timotheos Gavriilidis-Petrin performs the opening cello solo with heartrending lyricism, joined later in powerful cantabile style by violinist Josef Špaček. The finale, a savage moto perpetuo culminating in a triumphal coda, shows the Zimbalists at their most energetic.

Auerbach’s Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 28: II. Andante lamentoso

Trio Zimbalist’s conservative rendition of the Dumky is a refreshing contrast to some of the more romantically indulgent interpretations on record. Dvořák enthusiasts who tire of hearing his melodies distorted with hysterical slides and vibrato, or of slow sections played at funereal pace, will enjoy the Zimbalists’ moderate tempi and restrained tone colors. The expression is “inward,” but lacks nothing in emotional intensity.