one of the Naxos house ensembles, the Kodály Quartet, does the
honours here for some lesser-known Beethoven.
History decided that string trios are fated to be string quartet’s
little cousins, so it is probably apt that Beethoven’s writing
in these two works has a certain outdoor aspect to it. It breathes
life, a life relatively untrammelled by major emotional upheavals.
The Op. 3 Trio uses
Mozart’s K503 Trio as a model, having the same number of movements
(six). Yet it is in spirit entirely Beethovenian. The players
here certainly try to emphasise the sunshine, although bear
in mind that the rather sharp recording from Budapest’s Phoenix
Studios can get in the way. Any shrillness of tone is punished
heartlessly by the microphones, but at least the dryness allows
the sharp rhythmic play its full due. Falvay, Fejérvári and
Éder are unfailingly musical, whether in the exploratory, sometimes
ruminative first movement, in the eminently civilised ensuing
Andante or in the eloquent and imaginative first Menuetto
(in which silence has an intriguing part to play).
The Adagio is
second only to the first movement in duration. It has breadth
as well, if admittedly not the breadth of any of the quartet
slow movements. Nevertheless there is a depth of utterance here
that is on the same scale, perhaps, as the slow movement of
the Piano Sonata Op. 10/1. The finale is given with a most affecting
nonchalance, a kind of suave, throw-away feel that can only
brighten one’s day.
The shadow of the
Serenade idiom falls quite strongly over Op. 3, so the
Op. 8 work is the ideal partner. Here the first movement is
a Marcia, given in robust fashion; importantly, Falvay
negotiates the tricky ornaments without ay sense of strain.
Again six-movemented, it boasts an Adagio of deeper emotions
than one might imagine – very sensitively rendered here - and
as its penultimate offering a joyful, gutsy Allegretto alla
Polacca; a further whinge about the recording here
is that György Éder’s evident enjoyment of Beethoven’s writing
is somewhat diminished by the lack of lower-register body. This
piece ends with a Theme and Variations. The Theme itself
is as well-behaved as can be. Beethoven, a master of the variation
form, takes his material on a fascinating ten-minute journey.
It is true that
this disc mirrors the content of the Leopold Trio on Hyperion
(CDA67253) and cannot in the final analysis match it. But that
is a full price offering, and for a fiver the three Hungarians
provide ample enjoyment. Volume 2, I take it, will be the three
Trios, Op. 9. Let’s hope it comes along soon.