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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trios – Complete Edition Vol. 5

Trio in D (H XV,24) [12:17]
Trio in G (H XV,25) [14:27]
Trio in f sharp minor (H XV,26) [17:41]
Trio in E flat minor (H XV,31) [12:54]
Trio in G (H XV,32) [16:44]
Trio 1790: Harald Hoeren, fortepiano; Annette Wehnert, violin; Mercedes Ruiz, cello
Rec. March 2000; March 2001, Studio, DeutschlandRadio, Köln. DDD
CPO 999 828-2 [74:44]


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The Trios for keyboard, violin and cello take a prominent position in the musical output of Haydn. Strangely enough there are not many recordings of these trios available, at least not complete recordings. And there is only one complete recording on period instruments, by Patrick Cohen, Erich Höbarth and Christophe Coin (Harmonia Mundi France), although they have not recorded the last two trios of this CD.

This is Volume 5 of the recording of all Haydn’s ‘piano trios’, and presumably the last in the series. It contains three trios that Haydn composed in the first half of the 1790s, first and foremost for the English market. In this light I would have preferred the use of an English fortepiano instead of the copy of an instrument by the German Matthäus Heilmann.

The ‘piano trio’ has its roots in the trio sonata of the baroque. Haydn’s earliest trios give ample evidence of that. But in these late trios the keyboard takes the main role. The trios were usually described as ‘sonatas’ and Haydn preferred to call them ‘Clavier Sonatas’. The violin and cello have an accompanying role. The last trio on this disc (H XV 32) even exists in a version for keyboard and violin, and it is still unclear whether the cello part in the publication of 1794 by the Preston publishing company is authentic.

The character of these trios varies. Of the first group of three (H XV 24-26) the one in G is perhaps the best known and most popular, in particular because of the ‘Rondo al’Ongarese’, called ‘Rondo in the Gipsies’ style’ in the first edition. The trio in f sharp minor, on the other hand, is a much more serious and profound composition. The Trio in e flat minor is another one in a rare key. This work wasn’t conceived as a unity, but after Haydn returned from England in 1795 he decided to compose an Andante to an Allegro he had composed while in England. The nickname in the manuscript refers to the biblical story of Jacob, seeing a ladder in his dreams, with angels ascending and descending. It was written anonymously for a German amateur violinist in England, who had problems with the highest notes. So Haydn, with his typical wicked sense of humour, sent him a piece where he had to go up and down all the time. It caused him great trouble, and the violinist "cursed the unknown composer", according to Haydn’s biographer Dies.

On the whole this is a good and commendable recording. The ensemble playing is excellent, and there is no lack in expression in the more serious pieces. It is the lighter stuff that lacks some sparkle. The ‘Rondo al’Ongharese’ is played very fast, but doesn’t sound really playful. I would have liked somewhat stronger accents, here but also elsewhere.

I am not always satisfied with the tempi. The andante from the Trio in D (H XV 24) is too slow, certainly in comparison with the andante from the next Trio (H XV 25). And the allegro from the Trio in G (H XV 32) could have been a little faster too. The Trio in f sharp minor is definitely the highlight of this recording, and ‘Jacob’s dream’ doesn’t give the violinist the problems her poor colleague in the 1790s encountered.

Johan van Veen

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