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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Trios, Op. 9 (1796-98):
Trio in G major, Op. 9, No. 1 [30:45]
Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2 [24:54]
Trio in c minor, Op. 9, No. 3 [20:44]
Kandinsky String Trio: Kathrin Rabus, violin, Hartmut Rohde, viola, Nikolai Schneider, cello
Rec. July 4-7, September 6-7, 2001, Landesfunkhaus, Hanover, Germany. DDD
ARTE NOVA 74321 92776 2
[79:30]

 

Those listeners who regard Beethoven as the god of thunder are in for quite a treat in these early and immaculately refined trios for string instruments. Doubtless, the composer considered these works to be a formal sort of farewell to his student days, after which he assumed his rightful place in the realm of the expert professional composer. Full of grace, wit, charm and even some drama and romance, these are beautifully crafted works that prove beyond a doubt that the stormy little man who would one day conquer Vienna needed no great cause to write fine music. Indeed, he was quite capable, and from an early age, to generate elegant works for the sheer pleasure of it.

These trios make for a very rich program, as they complement each other nicely with their contrasts. From the formal opening of the first trio, which is followed by a sublimely lyrical second movement, to the rollicking and somewhat tempestuous opening of the third trio in the minor mode, there is ample assortment of mood, temperament and color.

There is little fault to be found with these performances either. The Kandinskys play with technical assurance and flawless intonation. They produce a robust, rich sound that belies the fact that only three instruments are sounding. They also have a fine sense of the contrasting moods of the works, from serious and formal to lyrical and melodic to jaunty and playful.

Regrettably, however, there is one major flaw. As I have said before in these pages, someone needs to tell string players that wind is not one of the requirements for the production of a fine string tone. Throughout this entire performance, the players subject us to the annoyingly pretentious sound of the melodramatic sucking of air. It adds absolutely nothing artistically or musically to a performance to hear the musicians sniff and snort as though they were a bunch of tubercular double reed players. It is maddeningly obnoxious, and no producer should ever allow it to get past the cutting room floor.

Sound quality is excellent, warm and rich. Arte Nova, as is their bent, have produced a set of program notes that are unnecessarily obtuse and wordy. It is really better to have original notes in each language than to make readers suffer through unidiomatic translations.

For the music, this is worth the price, and I recommend it with the above-mentioned caveats.

Kevin Sutton



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