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Piano Trios By Beethoven, Smetana & Schaeuble / Trio Fontane

Beethoven / Trio Fontane / Smetana
Release Date: 03/12/2013 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 7384  
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenBedrich SmetanaHans Schaeuble
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Fontane
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in c, Op. 1/3. SMETANA Piano Trio in g, Op. 15. SCHAEUBLE Piano Trio, Op. 45 Fontane Tr GUILD 7384 (75:43)

This one’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Try as I might, I can discern no logic in the joining of these three piano trios on the same disc. The first two—the Beethoven Read more and Smetana—are well known and widely recorded, yet have nothing in common other than both being in a minor key. The trio by Hans Schaeuble (1906–1988) has even less in common, it being a 12-tone work and thus in no key, though it doesn’t emulate either in technique or style of the Schoenbergian model. In fact, it’s near to impossible to describe what it sounds like because as I listened to it the analogous image that came to mind was that of giving a chimpanzee a blank canvas and a bucket of paint. Colleague Paul A. Snook said it best, I think, in reviewing a disc of Schaeuble’s works back in 13:2 (1989), when he said, “Schaeuble was no better or worse a composer than dozens of Middle European Kapellmeisters who fell under the spell of Hindemith’s neo-Baroque revival.”

For those of you who have never heard of him—and I admit, I hadn’t—Schaeuble was born in Switzerland, but of German parents. In 1931, he relocated to Berlin, where, it has been suggested that he married a woman he knew to be dying of breast cancer as a way of concealing his homosexuality. She died a year later. In Berlin, Schaeuble achieved a degree of recognition when Carl Schuricht conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in the composer’s Symphonic Music for Large Orchestra in 1939. But almost immediately thereafter, Schaeuble high-tailed it back to neutral Switzerland to escape the loudening drums of war. But then, only two years later, Schaeuble returned to Berlin at the height of the war in 1941. When he departed again in 1942 and returned to Switzerland a second time, he was persona non grata to the Swiss, who looked upon him with deep suspicion for having cozied up to the Third Reich.

Schaeuble had cooked his own goose, so to speak; his career was effectively over. After premiering the composer’s Symphony, op. 25, in 1945, conductor Hermann Scherchen declared Schaeuble a Nazi and deemed his works unperformable. Schaeuble sued Scherchen for libel and won, but it didn’t restore him to grace. In fact, if anything, it made things worse. Schaeuble found it more and more difficult to find conductors willing to take up his works, and he began to level charges of a conspiracy against them. Schaeuble produced little in the way of original compositions later in life. The piano trio on this disc was composed in 1960, but for the most part, Schaeuble spent his last years editing and revising his earlier works, which is why, if you peruse his worklist—musinfo.ch/index.php?content=maske_werke&pers_id= 249&name=Schaeuble&vorname=Hans—you’ll see early and late dates for many of his opus numbers, such as his Piano Concerto, op. 34, 1949/1973.

The distinguishing feature of this CD is the uniqueness of its program rather than the performances of the Trio Fontane. Granted, this Swiss ensemble—Noëlle Grüebler, violin; Jonas Kreienbühl, cello; and Andrea Wiesli, piano—is professionally polished and turns in robust readings of the Beethoven and Smetana trios, but not that they are necessarily any better than those by quite a few other ensembles. So that leaves the Schaeuble, of which, to these ears, at least, the music is so without shape, direction, or purpose that no performance could possibly make sense of it. Of course, it’s precisely because of the Schaeuble, for which I find no other recordings and the unique combination of works on this disc that you may find it intriguing.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings no 3 in C minor, Op. 1 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Fontane
Period: Classical 
Written: 1794-1795; Vienna, Austria 
Trio for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 15 by Bedrich Smetana
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Fontane
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Czech Republic 
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op.45 by Hans Schaeuble
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Fontane
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 

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