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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Complete Piano Trios Vol. 6

Piano Trio in C major (No. 43) Hob.XV:27 (c.1795-97)
Piano Trio in E major (No. 44) Hob.XV:28 (c.1795-97)
Piano Trio in E flat major (No. 45) Hob.XV:29 (c.1795-97)
Piano Trio in E flat major (No. 42) Hob.XV:30 (1797)
Trio 1790
Annette Wehnert (violin)
Mercedes Ruiz (cello)
Harald Hoeren (fortepiano)
Recording March 10-12, 2000 (Hob.XV:27, 28, 29), March 13-16, 2001 (Hob. XV:30)
Sendesaal des DR Kohn DDD
CPO 999 829-2 [76:26]


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German-based ensemble 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 authenticity.

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 departure.

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 the sound.

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 successful.

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.

Michael Cookson

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