Beethoven Piano Trios Vol. 1

The monumental 'Archduke' Trio Op.97 represents Beethoven at the peak of his creativity in the genre. Sketches for all four movements of this ‘symphony scored for a trio' are included in a sketchbook of 1810 containing also drafts for the Egmont music and the String Quartet in F minor Op.95. The manuscript score was written out between 3 and 26 March 1811. Three years elapsed before the work's public premiere, by Beethoven, Schuppanzigh and Linke, on 11 April 1814 as part of a charity concert in the hall of the 'Hotel zum Römischen Kaiser' in Vienna. This concert sounded the death knell of Beethoven's public career as a pianist, owing to his profound deafness. The work's critical reception was understandably mixed, but the celebrated pianist Ignaz Moscheles. praised its originality while expressing reservations about the 'clarity and precision' of Beethoven's pianism. Significantly, a repeat performance of the work a few weeks later was Beethoven’s final public appearance as a pianist. Inspired by the sinfonie concertante for two or more soloists and orchestra, Beethoven transports the piano trio into an orchestral context with his Triple Concerto in C major Op.56. His choice of this particular solo combination was unprecedented in the literature and, in his words, 'really something new'; it was later to inspire composers Emanuel Moor.
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There’s nothing arch about these elegant and open-hearted performances

These musicians have been playing together for a while now, since they met at the Pablo Casals Prades Festival in 2009. In the ‘Archduke’ Trio there is well-padded playing, lush, warm-toned and full of delicacy: some of the interplay between the strings in the first movement is delightfully light and playful, particularly in the pizzicato passage.

The opening of the scherzo has a similar dry delicacy and humour. The worming chromatic passage slithers inexorably into the joyful piano outburst. The opening of the Andante cantabile is a study in note placing, with the slightest touches of rubato and emphases: the two-note string lead into their first melody is itself a small joy. The movement floats along, light, airy and sublime. The finale is earthy, dramatic and elegant.

Beethoven’s ‘Triple’ Concerto is cheerful, with perky rhythmic zest. Cellist Raphael Wallfisch, who gets a generous share of the limelight, shapes his many melodies with patrician distinction. The three, separately and together, are a great triple act, the strings duetting in perfect accord, with some terrifically clear, punchy staccato playing and real power in the climaxes. The Largo is a seamless reverie, and the Finale is vigorous and open-hearted. In both works the recording is clear and well balanced. The Strad Novemebr 2019

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