This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Castle Trio play with exceptional vividness and immediacy and finely suggest the smouldering anger that lies just beneath the elegant surface of this music.
Beethoven's first three piano trios surely constitute the boldest, most assured of all Op. 1s. With their largely emancipated string parts, extended, often radical four-movement structures and new urgency of musical dialectic (to adapt a phrase of Joseph Kerman's), they must have seemed to many like a head-on challenge to the traditional notion of the piano trio as a relaxed domestic genre. In Nos. I and 2 the composer's subversiveness is often cloaked in a smiling elegance of manner; with the Third, C minor Trio, it erupts in a work of unprecedented explosive
vehemence and dark lyric beauty.
It is precisely because they bring out the subversive nature of Beethoven's thought more powerfully than their rivals that I prefer the Castle Trio to...other...period-instrument versions... [T]he Castle make each of the trios seem bigger, bolder, more radical. In the E fiat their tempos are virtually identical to those of the London Fortepiano Trio; yet they bring to the music more sheer physical energy and a wider, more daring spectrum of colour and dynamics, relishing to the full Beethoven's sharp, stinging sforzandos, his abrupt contrasts and, especially in the finale, his dangerous wit.
Lambert Orkis, using a fortepiano modelled on the Walter instrument Beethoven himself played in the 1790s, leads the trio with guile and spirit: listen to his subtly varied tone-colour at each appearance of the thethe in the Adagio, and to his deft placing and weighting of the insistent octave figure at the start of the finale. He blends well with his string colleagues, who are not too austerely self-denying in their use of vibrato and bring a beautiful, unforced expressiveness to the violin and cello duetting in the Adagio. My only provisos here—and they apply to the rest of the disc—are that the violinist's intonation is occasionally a bit uncomfortable (certainly less precise than Monica Huggett's on the Hyperion disc), and that, contrary to what one usually hears in modern-instrument performances, the balance tends to favour the strings, so that accompanying violin and cello figures are often a shade too intrusive. My preference for the Castle Trio is even stronger in the C minor work, where Kite and his colleagues can seem unduly decorous, their sensibility attuned more to the ancien régime than to fin de siècle revolutionary turbulence. The Castle respond with exceptional vividness and immediacy to the outer movements' extremes of lyrical ardour and rhetorical violence, and finely suggest the smouldering anger that lies just beneath the elegant surface of the Menuetto.
-- Gramophone [4/1991, reviewing the original release of Op. 1 nos. 1 & 3, Virgin 91126]
In this third volume of their Beethoven piano trio cycle (the first and second were reviewed 4/91 and 3/92), the Castle Trio go back to the very beginning, not only bringing us the second of the three works of Op. 1 (1795) excluded from their first, but also the endearingly bland, still earlier (1790-91) little E flat Trio never published by the composer himself. We're told that the keyboard used by Lambert Orkis is neither the copy of the Viennese Walter heard in Vol. I nor the bigger Graf chosen for Vol. 2 (containing the Archduke), but a copy of a South German Louis Dulcken fortepiano (and I loved the delicate harp-like glints of its top register) alongside Marilyn McDonald's 1665 Stainer violin and Kenneth Slowik's 1748 Grosset cello.
The profoundest music in these 71 comparatively carefree minutes comes in the Largo con espressione of the G major Trio, Op. 1 No. 2. Though allowing themselves a minute and a half longer than the Czechs, I still thought the Castle's tempo just a shade too fast for this wonderful E major movement to speak as it can. It was certainly here, as also to a lesser extent in the Adagio of the B flat Trio, Op. 11, that I confess to sometimes wishing that the violin and cello were not quite so pure, i.e. that they had allowed themselves just a little more vibrato when singing lovely tunes. But that said, let me hasten to add that there's not an 'academic' note on the disc. Everything comes up as newly minted, thanks to these American artists' rhythmic alacrity, their piquant accentuation, their exceptionally bold dynamic contrasts, their sharp-witted repartee . . . and even their humour. Once again, I particularly admired the inexhaustible imaginative vitality of Orkis at the keyboard. The recording is as vivid as the playing.
-- Gramophone [11/1992, reviewing the original release of Op. 1 no. 2, Op. 11, and WoO 38, Virgin 59220]
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