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Beethoven: Piano Trios Op. 77, Piano Trio Op 1 No 3 / Ex Aequo Trio

Beethoven / Trio Ex Aequo
Release Date: 02/28/2012 
Label:  Genuin Classics   Catalog #: 12217   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio ex Aequo
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Trios: in c, op. 1/3; in B?, “Archduke” Ex Aequo Trio GENUIN 12217 (69:46)

Here is an ensemble of seasoned German musicians who only recently began playing together as a piano trio. Their individual résumés, however, are impressive. Violinist Matthias Wollong, for instance, was recruited in 1999 by Giuseppe Sinopoli to serve as concertmaster of the Dresden Staatskapelle. Fans of the Read more critically acclaimed Leipzig String Quartet will recognize Matthias Moosdorf as that ensemble’s longtime cellist. And the Ex Aequo’s prize-winning pianist, Gerald Fauth, is a highly regarded concert and recital artist who also is professor of piano at the Mendelssohn Music Academy in Leipzig.

The name Ex Aequo rang a bell, as did the familiar appearance of the album. Surely, I’d encountered this ensemble before, and there it was on my shelf, the group’s two-disc Genuin set of the Brahms piano trios, a release that doesn’t appear to have received a Fanfare review. A pity, for it’s really outstanding, and it set up my expectations for this new Beethoven CD.

Those expectations were fully met and then some. In what I surmise is the kickoff to a new survey of Beethoven’s complete piano trios, Ex Aequo has begun with one of the earliest in the composer’s catalog, the C-Minor Trio, No. 3 in the set of three works published collectively in 1795 as op. 1, and his final contribution to the genre, the great “Archduke” Trio, op. 97.

There are many magnificent recordings of these works, especially of the “Archduke.” Going back more years than I care to count, I still remember my first recording of the piece with Oistrakh, Knushevitsky, and Oborin on a mono LP (was it Monitor?) that has been preserved on CD by EMI. From there, the number of “Archdukes” in my collection has proliferated.

There are certain pieces of music in which I think we all tend to single out a particular passage for judging the performance. In the “Archduke” Trio, for me, it’s the closing pages of the third movement (Andante cantabile) beginning at the Tempo I where Beethoven once again manages to conjure that aura of quiet ecstasy and of time coming to a stop: first the expectancy of those halting phrases, next the sense of increasing rapture in the violin and cello’s sustained notes over the rising triplets in the piano, then the feeling of exultation as the violin and cello separate to echo each other’s phrases, and finally those repeated high F? octaves in the piano, so simple and innocent, almost like a child’s doodling. Surely, this is some of Beethoven’s loftiest music, and the rapt trancelike intensity and concentration with which Ex Aequo makes its way through these miraculous measures imparts a sense of holiness to this performance like few I’ve heard before.

On the merits of this movement alone, I’d accord the Trio Ex Aequo’s Beethoven disc the highest possible recommendation. But there’s more in a reading of the C-Minor Trio that makes no apologies or excuses for the young Beethoven’s stormy temperament with playing that’s pointed, urgent, bold, and dramatic. This surpasses still viable favorites by the Kempf Trio (identically coupled), the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and the Stuttgart Trio.

The Genuin CD was recorded in two sessions during August 2011 in Leipzig’s MDR Chorprobensaal by engineering, technical, and production teams that are obviously very experienced at their jobs, for the sound is as balanced and as good as it gets for this combination of instruments. The booklet note, in English and German, is authored by Ex Aequo’s Gerald Fauth and is as informative as it needs to be about the music. This is urgently recommended and with the hope expressed that we can look forward to Beethoven’s remaining piano trios from this source.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings no 7 in B flat major, Op. 97 "Archduke" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio ex Aequo
Period: Classical 
Written: 1810-1811; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/28/2011 
Venue:  Chorprobensaal MDR, Augustusplatz, Leipz 
Length: 41 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Trio for Piano and Strings no 3 in C minor, Op. 1 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio ex Aequo
Period: Classical 
Written: 1794-1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/01/2011 
Venue:  Chorprobensaal MDR, Augustusplatz, Leipz 
Length: 27 Minutes 18 Secs. 

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