Trio 1790 specialise in performances
using original instruments or period
copies from the corresponding period.
However a word of caution is necessary!
Keyboard player Harald Hoeren uses a
fortepiano copied from the period around
1790. The fortepiano sound is very different
to that of the modern grand piano. Some
listeners will undoubtedly find the
instrument a refreshing change and many
will favour the authenticity but the
sound will certainly not be to everyone’s
taste. Incidentally a friend of mine
who heard this release stated that the
fortepiano sounded at times like a cross
between a pub piano and a banjo. Unfortunately
a cursory glance at the front of the
accompanying booklet does not tell us
that a fortepiano is being used.
The members of Trio
1790 have eminent and enviable credentials
both for solo and ensemble performance.
They have been prolific and successful
recording artistes for the enterprising
independent German label CPO, recording
composers such as C.P.E. Bach, J.C.
Bach and Dussek. This is the sixth volume
in their continuing complete edition
of the Haydn Piano Trios for CPO.
My researches have
credited Haydn with the composition
of an estimated forty-four surviving
piano trios. The exact number that Haydn
wrote is veiled in uncertainty owing
to destroyed scores and doubts about
The three Piano Trios
Hob. XV: 27 to 29 were dedicated to
Therese Jansen-Bartolozzi who was an
esteemed keyboard player of the day.
A keyboard pupil of Muzio Clementi,
Therese Jansen was considered of equal
talent to be ranked alongside the eminent
performers Johann Baptist Cramer and
John Field. It is not exactly clear
when the scores were written but they
were printed in 1797 and described as
Sonatas for the piano-forte, with
an accompaniment for violin and violoncello.
It is thought likely that Haydn
composed the works whilst on tour in
England in 1795 prior to his homeward
The opening work the
Piano Trio in C major Hob. XV:27
has been described as the most virtuosic
of all the trios. The piano leads but
in places is joined by the violin as
an equal partner with the cello following
the piano bass line. Notable is the
dazzling final movement Presto with
its electrifying main theme. Pianist
and musicologist Charles Rosen has described
the work as the most humorous of all
Haydn’s movements. Of particular note
in the Piano Trio in E major Hob.
XV:28 is the richness and variety of
the key structure of the opening Allegro.
In the central movement Allegretto
the piano assumes a particularly dominant
role with the strings merely strengthening
It has been identified
that in the Piano Trio in E flat
major Hob. XV:29 the improvisatory
nature of the opening movement Poco
Allegretto is strongly influential
of Haydn’s study of C.P.E. Bach. The
brief central movement Andantino
e innocetemente is a substantial
Cantabile and proves extremely
The Piano Trio in
E flat major Hob. XV:30 was composed
in Vienna in 1796 and was to be Haydn’s
final piano composition. The Presto
finale anticipates the Beethoven Scherzo
and is worth special notice. A passage
where the violin and cello takes the
leading role over the piano seems to
state that Haydn’s long process of development
in the art of the piano trio had been
brought to completion.
Trio 1790 offer really
fine accounts and can be justly proud
of this new release. Their playing is
never about self-glorification but about
performing with genuine musical integrity,
strength of character and expressive
poetry. The playing of Hoeren is agreeably
assertive and characterful with the
strings most alert and sensitive. Clearly
the issue with the sound of the fortepiano
will remain a personal one.
The CPO engineers are
to be congratulated for producing a
terrific sound quality which is most
realistic and really well balanced.
However the commanding performances
of the Haydn Piano Trios from
the Beaux Arts Trio on Philips are true
classics and the benchmark by which
all others are judged. The evergreen
versions from the Beaux Arts, using
modern instruments were recorded in
1972 and are available in a nine disc
box set of the complete Piano Trios
on Philips 454 098-2.
A strong release of
wonderful music from a talented period
instrument ensemble. A stimulating alternative
to but never a threat to the genius
of the Beaux Arts Trio.