> BEETHOVEN Trios Vol 2 Parnassus [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1828)
Piano Trios, Volume 2.

Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1 No. 3
14 Variations in E flat, Op. 44
Variations in G, Op. 121a, ‘Kakadu’.

Trio Parnassus (Wolfgang Schröder, violin; Michael Gross, cello; Chia Chou, piano).
Recorded at Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen on January 15th-16th, 2001.
Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG303 1052-2 [DDD] [60’03]


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The Trio Parnassus’ cycle of Beethoven Piano Trios on Dabringhaus und Grimm is turning into something very special indeed. Volume 1, on MDG303 1051-2 presented life-enhancing performances of the first two trios of Op. 1; Volume 3, on MDG303 1053-2, holds the ‘Ghost’ Trio and Op. 70 No. 1.

It was a good idea to issue the C minor Trio, Op. 1 No. 3 as the sole trio on this disc. Being in Beethoven’s favourite key, it has an inner dynamism (particularly in the outer movements) that is not so marked in the first two trios of Op. 1. This energy is present, latent, in the quiet opening: and how well the Trio Parnassus projects it. Dynamic contrasts are highlighted and tension is maintained throughout the development section. This interpretative realisation of the core Beethovenian spirit recurs in the third movement, marked ‘Menuetto’ (but this is a long way from a courtly dance). The finale is launched like a rocket. The Theme and Variations of the second movement bring out the best from the Trio Parnassus. Each variation is impeccably characterised, each shedding light on a different facet of the theme. The recording comes into its own here: the pizzicato strings are particularly well captured.

The couplings, two sets of variations, seem logical in the light of this variation movement of the C minor Trio. The Fourteen Variations in E flat, Op. 44 (c1800, published 1804) stems from a period when the Theme and Variation form was a preferred medium for Beethoven. The theme of this set has been identified as the Aria, Ja, ich muss mich von ihr scheiden from Dittersdorf’s comic operetta Das rote Käppchen oder Hilft’s nocht, so schadt’s nicht, which received its first performance in 1788. The Trio Parnassus gives the theme out truly staccato and detached. Once again they are responsive to Beethoven’s shifts, from the playful to the expressive minor variation in which Michael Gross’ cello sings so beautifully.

For the so-called ‘Kakadu’ Variations, Beethoven again turns to comedy on the stage as his base: this time the theme is sourced from a piece by Wenzel Müller (1767-1835) called Die Schwestern von Prag. More specifically, he used the song ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’ (hence the title). The set begins with a dramatic Adagio introduction. It is clear from this how serious Beethoven is about this form (just think how it blossomed in the late pieces, notably the great Diabelli Variations), and so it turns out. Once again the cellist may be singled out for special mention, but one should also point to the tightness of ensemble (particularly in the Tenth and final Variation, marked ‘presto’).

A disc that will bring much pleasure, then. One can revel in the creation of true chamber music by a most talented young trio.

Colin Clarke


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