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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Trio in C major, Hob. XV:21 (1795) [13:34] (a)
Trio in F major, Hob XV:6 (?1784) [12:36] (a)
Trio in A major, Hob. XV:18 (1794) [16:23] (a)
Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:22 (1795) [19:02] (a)
Trio in A major, Hob. XV:9 (1785) [10:37] (a)
Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:29 (?1795) [16:09] (b)
Trio in F sharp minor, Hob. XV:26 (?1795) [15:27] (b)
Trio in F major, Hob. XV:40 (?1760) [10:58] (b)
Trio in D minor, Hob. XV:23 (?1795) [20:45] (b)
Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:10 (?1785) [9:40] (b)
Trio in B flat major, Hob. XV:20 (?1794) [14:08] (c)
Trio in C minor, Hob.XV:13 (?1789) [17:39] (c)
Trio in C major, Hob. XC:C1 (?1760) [19:23] (c)
Trio in E major, Hob. XV:28 (?1795) [15:23] (c)
Trio in B flat major, Hob. XV:38 (?1760) [12:25] (c)
Trio in E flat major, Hob.XV:30 (?1797) (d)
Trio in G major, Hob. XV:41 (?1760) [18:09] (d)
Trio in E flat minor, Hob. XV:31 (1795) [11:32] (d)
Trio in G major, Hob. XV:5 (?1784) [14:42] (d)
Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:11 (?1789) [16:08] (d)
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt: Harald Kosik (piano), Verena Stourzh (violin), Hannes Gradwohl (cello)
Recorded Haydnsaal, Schloss Esterházy, Eisenstadt: (a) November 1998; (b) April 2002; (c) April 2003; (d) April 2004
CAPRICCIO 49 489 [72:21 + 73:24 + 79:04 + 79:41]
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Treasure trove! Half of Haydn’s output for keyboard trio, well played, well recorded and offered at a bargain price. The other half is, one assumes, to follow. Having already given us Christine Schornsheim’s highly enjoyable complete recording of the keyboard sonatas, admirers of Haydn have good reason to be grateful to Capriccio.

Formed in 1992, the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt has already developed a considerable reputation, in their native Austria and beyond. They will be familiar to some from their ongoing recording of Haydn’s Scottish Songs with Lorna Anderson and Jamie MacDougall on Brilliant Classics.

Many of Haydn’s keyboard trios are difficult to date very precisely. Even so, it is clear that they fall into three distinct groups. The earliest were written between the mid 1750s and 1761 when Haydn ceased to be kapellmeister for Count Morzin and moved to Eisenstadt: I have followed most catalogues in dating these as (?1760) in listing the contents of these CDs. A second group were written in the 1780s and a third in the 1790s. In a number of cases, the dates given above represent the dates by which we know a given trio to have been in existence, rather than the precise dates of composition.

There are four of the early trios in the present collection. In each case there is some slight uncertainty as to Haydn’s authorship of the piece. Hob. XV:38 was recognised as genuine by Haydn some forty years later in 1803; he didn’t, apparently, recognise Hob. XV:41 as his work, though an early copy survives in the hand of one of Haydn’s regular copyists. Hob. XV:40 is surely his – it sounds unmistakably like him and there are several seemingly reliable early copies. Hob. XV:C1 was again not remembered by the elderly Haydn but there are several usually reliable manuscript sources for it. There are, of course, strong arguments for playing these early keyboard trios on the harpsichord – as in the recording on period instruments by L’Entretien des Muses on Calliope – but when played with the understanding and sense of scale displayed by the Eisenstadts, they can be made to work perfectly well on modern instruments. The violin is given a good deal of prominence in most of these early trios, and Verena Stourzh plays gracefully and, where necessary, quite forcefully. Hob. XV:41 is an intriguing four-movement work, in which the third-movement adagio is distinguished by a strikingly fluid and decorated melody for the piano. Though undoubtedly minor pieces, all of these trios have something to offer the hearer, and are historically fascinating, case-studies in Haydn’s movement away from Baroque conventions (still evident in the continuo role given to the cello, and to the keyboard in places).

The 1780 trios are here represented by six works: Hob: XV 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 13. In this second group of trios, the keyboard soloist takes more and more of the limelight and the violinist joins the cellist in sometimes having to play a decidedly secondary role. Haydn’s musical imagination now seems fully involved with the piano trio and without exception there is original and beautiful music to be found in them. Hob. XV: 5 begins with a rhapsodic yet dignified adagio, in which the violin is an important voice and which is remarkably free in form; it ends with an attractive ¾ allegro. Hob. XV:6 is in two-movements, marked vivace and tempo di menuetto. The Eisenstadts bring delightful exuberance to the first movement and Verena Stourzh impresses in the second movement. Here, as elsewhere, Harald Kosik plays with exemplary clarity and Hannes Gradwohl is both solid and flexible. Hob. XV:9 and 10 are both two-movement works; XV:9 gives the cello more chance for lyrical expressiveness, especially in its opening adagio, than is often the case in these trios; the sensitive interplay and internal balance of the Eisenstadts is particularly striking in this movement. Hob.XV:11 and 13 are complex works formally speaking, rich exemplars of Haydn’s extraordinary musical intelligence.

Of Haydn’s 1790 trios we are here given ten examples. There are too many delights here for even the briefest enumeration of them all. Good as Haydn’s previous trios had been, these move onto a new plane. Ideas are developed further and treated even more inventively, movements are more richly individualised; harmonically Haydn is more adventurous; some are on an altogether larger scale than their predecessors, most require more all-round virtuosity. The best of these trios from the 1790s are amongst the great works of the chamber music tradition. Hob. XV:18, for example, opens with an almost monumentally conceived allegro moderato, follows this with a beautiful siciliana and closes with a gloriously witty allegro. Hob. XV:20 is a sophisticated, technically demanding piece, testing for both pianist and violinist (no problems are experienced here) in its opening allegro, and quite ravishing in its use of a sad ländler for the violin in its final movement. Hob. XV:21 is a constant delight, in its characteristically Haydenesque fusion of the rustic and the ultra-sophisticated. Hob. XV:22 is a masterpiece by any standards, harmonically bold and full of formal complexities handled with seeming nonchalance. It would be tedious to go on enumerating the joys of these late trios. Suffice it to say that they are one of the most rewarding groups of compositions ever to have been written, even by Haydn, and that the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt gives enjoyable, polished, subtle performances of them.

If you are lucky enough to own the classic recordings by the Beaux Arts Trio you won’t want to throw them away and there are, of course, other good performances of some of these trios. But this is music which welcomes – and deserves – different performance perspectives. I have had enormous pleasure (and no little mental stimulation!) from these 4 CDs. I look forward eagerly to the second instalment of the Eisenstadts recording of these marvellous trios. Very strongly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove



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