Somehow this series had escaped my attention and that of my fellow reviewers at MusicWeb International. In my defence, as surveyor of the piano trio repertoire, I did say that I couldn’t possibly hope to cover all recordings of the big names.
Naming your ensemble after a famous composer, especially one whose works you have chosen to begin your recording career, does create something of an expectation of a “special” relationship. Violinist Verena Stourzh has “form” here, as she was a member of the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt until its disbanding in 2010. I’m pleased to report that in this volume at least, TrioVanBeethoven does have a special relationship with theRead more great one, as they have given us stunningly good performances here.
Beethoven’s piano trios, for me, are the least stormy, most cheerful of his output. In part, this may be due to their relatively early composition. Even the final, and perhaps greatest of them - the Archduke, op. 97 - was written in his middle period. There are none to parallel the ground-breaking late quartets and piano sonatas.
The two complete works presented here are among his sunniest. His three Opus 1 trios are very much in the mould of Haydn and Mozart, and are considered by some to be lesser works. Mature Beethoven they may not be, but I have a great deal of affection for them, and especially No. 2. No. 6 may be somewhat dwarfed by those chronologically before (Ghost) and after (Archduke) but is still a great work.
My yardstick for the Beethoven trios is the Florestan Trio (review) and that remains so, despite the very significant impression that TrioVanBeethoven has made on me here. The Florestans give a brilliant performance, and I employ that adjective for both its meanings: splendid/excellent and glittering/bright. TrioVanBeethoven give a more genial and spacious reading of both works, especially Op. 1/2, where they take almost three minutes more. This is a smiling, playful even relaxed Beethoven, not necessarily adjectives normally applied to him, but not out of place in this work. Trio No. 6 is taken similarly, though the difference to the Florestans is less here. In case you begin to think these are old-fashioned big Romantic performances, let me assure you that they are not. There is nothing heavy about them; somehow TrioVanBeethoven have managed to balance a lightness of touch with a sense of repose. They provide a quite complementary view to the Florestans, whose brilliance might even be too dazzling, depending on your mood.
The sound quality lives up to the performances: immediate, natural and without any extraneous breathing or mechanical noises. When you factor in informative liner notes, you have the complete package. I’m off to buy Volumes 1 & 2, and I look forward to Volume 4 – may it not take too long to arrive.
Fresh BeethovenAugust 6, 2016By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"The challenge in presenting music from Beethoven's early period isn't necessarily to bring to bear all of one's musical capabilities as one would when playing a mature or even a transitional work. Beethoven was in his early twenties when he wrote the three piano trios that he published as his Opus 1, and he put everything he had into this music, which was sometimes a bit more than the music could bear. Put everything you have into playing them, and things might come crashing down. There has to be some slight distance, a musical smile when things get too fraught, a bit of ironic detachment: more Seinfeld than Breaking Bad. My ideal for this music is the wondrously joyful, and obviously fun music making of Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Prez and Pinchas Zuckerman (those were happy days!) You can guess that the vital TrioVanBeethoven are probably going to do fine when you see the wide smiles on their faces on the cover of this album, volume 3 in their Piano Trio series for Gramola, due to be released on August 12, 2016. And they do a really marvellous job with this trio (as they did with number 1 in volume 1; I'm assuming number 3 will be part of volume 4, to come). I especially liked the Rossinian gallop of the splendid Presto Finale. Likewise, they play the slight Allegretto WoO 39 with real grace and the tiniest bit of mock heroism, which I believe Beethoven wrote into the piece himself; he was 42 at the time. We move into a different world entirely with the E-flat major Trio, the second the two trios of op. 70, written in 1809, when Beethoven was approaching the end of his thirties. There are dark clouds overhead that the musicians should take note of, but not to the detriment of the nostalgic beauty in the lovely third movement, or the determined almost-optimistic mood of the Finale. If the final degree of gravitas is missing in this, a favourite, under-rated work, these fine musicians make up for it with their fresh approach to all of this music. 5 stars!"Report Abuse