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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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website http://www.aixrecords.com/

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Piano Trio ("#1"/41) Hob.XV:25 in G (1794) [14.38]
Piano Trio ("#2"/42) Hob.XV:26 in f# (1794) [12.46]
Piano Trio ("#4"/44) Hob.XV:28 in E (1795) [14.41]
Pro Arte Trio: Anda Petrovici,v; Marin Cazacu, vc; Nicolae Licaret, piano
Recorded at the Atheneum, Bucharest, Romania, 31August 2001.
MLP 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 "Audience" Mix, DTS "Stage" Mix,
PCM Stereo.
Technical notes in English. No photos or comments on the music or performers.
www.aixrecords.com
Mark Waldrep, producer, recording and mastering engineer, and artistic direction.
Playable on DVD players and DVD Audio players. Not playable on CD players.
DVD Audio

AIX IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT 1340 AX [42.11]

One of the first things you learn when you start to make recordings is that you don’t set the level of the loudest violin note at 0VU. A violin note has a complex spiky waveform and a good deal of ‘headroom’ is necessary to avoid clipping and distortion. In spite of all those rhapsodies written by critics who spend too much time listening to 78’s about ‘warm’ analogue LP sound and ‘harsh’ CD’s, the CD was a big improvement in realism and beauty of tone. And with DVD-Audio we make another big leap in quality and realism of solo string sound recordings.

When I retired from my eight-to-five job I set myself three goals to occupy my abundant new leisure time: I would read Dostoyevsky, really get to know Parsifal, and hear every one of the Haydn Symphonies. Brothers Karamazov was enough Dostoyevsky, and Parsifal is actually easy to get to know and love once you can sit still and breathe slowly for five hours. The Haydn Symphonies took the longest time, and the news was bad: they’re all terrific! Even with Mozart you can listen to the last six and call it yourself a connoisseur. But not with Haydn; you have to pay close attention to all 105+ of them, and you’ll love every minute of doing it. And the same is true of the Piano Trios, in fact all of his music. It’s all good. Pick a miscellaneous Hoboken number to listen to it and expect to love it. So when I put this disk on I expected it to be first rate, but even so I was surprised and delighted.

String quartets are ‘symphonic;’ a number of them are occasionally played by full symphony orchestras, for better or for worse. Violin & piano sonatas are sort of like songs. The piano trio form seems to lend itself to flamboyant, passionate utterance, viz. the Smetana Trio, the Beethoven "Archduke," and the Brahms Horn Trio. Although Haydn is normally a reserved composer with a dignified, sardonic wit, concerned more with craftsmanship than passion, even his piano trios are more animated than his other works. "Haydn’s Piano Trios have been undervalued....After the quartets they comprise the largest and greatest corpus of [his] chamber music..." says New Grove.* It is then explained that one of the difficulties in both Haydn’s violin sonatas and his piano trios lies in the tendency for the piano to be the solo instrument and the strings the accompanists, even though in slow movements the violin will usually carry a melody. In other words, the violinist complains that he’s not the ‘star’ all the time, so he takes his bow and his box and goes home, and the Haydn doesn’t get played.

But these players are obviously good friends and love playing together, and are happy to take turns being star performer. They play these beautiful works with enthusiasm and have a lot of fun doing it.

The G major piano trio has as its finale the famous ‘Gypsy Rondo’ and may have inspired Brahms to include a Hungarian rondo as the finale of his piano quartet in g. We need to be reminded that Haydn was a Hungarian composer, and these Rumanian artists give the music just the right East-European flavour.

To see how this disk would play in a DVD (video) player I put it in my new Sony DVD/SACD player which contains a 96kHz audio chip. There is also a firm notice in the booklet that it does not (sniff!) play DVD-Audio disks. The AIX logo appeared on the screen (unfortunately not a silent one) and then the audio set-up menu, and when I clicked nothing, almost at once the 96kHz PCM stereo track began to play. Even in two channel stereo there was a magical clarity. Upon returning to the audio set-up menu, I selected DTS surround sound and there I was, seated at the piano, with the violin to the front and the cello to the back. Every note of every instrument was brilliantly clear. I thought it couldn’t get any better than this, but when I moved the disk to my DVD-Audio player, both the stereo and surround tracks expanded into a new greater clarity and detail. So you can buy this disk now and enjoy it on your DVD player, knowing that when you get a dedicated DVD-Audio player you still have something to look forward to.

Hopefully this series may be extended with more recordings in the future. That would be delightful! Watch this space for news.

*James Webster and Georg Feder

 

Paul Shoemaker



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