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alternatively Crotchet

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in E flat Op. 1 No.1 (1794) [32:45]
Piano Trio in B flat major Op. 11 (1797) [21:46]
Piano Trio in D major Op. 70 No.1 Ghost (1808) [30:57]
Piano Trio in B flat major Op. 97 Archduke (1811) [39:23]
Chung Trio
rec. Théâtre Impérial, Compiègne, Oise, November 1991 and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, December 1992 (Op.11 and Op.97)
EMI CLASSICS 3817512 [63:51 + 61:09]



This is another in EMI’s twofer reissue series. The artists who populate them, at least in the discs that I’ve encountered, are all top names – the Chungs, the Menuhins, Tipo, Gavrilov. The repertoire is standard – in the case of the musicians already mentioned two of the three B’s; Bach and, as with the Chungs, Beethoven.
 
Their set of the piano trios – Op.11 of course was originally written for clarinet and only later published for violin – was recorded in November 1991 and December 1992 in two locations either side of the Atlantic. The performances are genial, tonally warm and fastidious, often beautiful, sometimes under characterised. Op.1 No.1 is elegant and sports a buoyant Scherzo though cellist Myung-Wha Chung sounds a little recessive in comparison with Kyung-Wha. Some may feel – I might as well admit that I feel – that the finale is rather downplayed. There are times here when not enough mischief is made in contrastive episodes and by mischief one isn’t implying metrical displacements or vulgarity. The same also applies elsewhere. The Ghost trio was recorded at the same sessions and it reprises those classical qualities that lend elegance and refinement to the playing though once again there are times when the playing, whilst never bland, seems to move without sufficient weight and charge. I don’t feel this quite as much in the outer movements but in the inner ones not enough is made of opportunities for contrast.
 
The Op.11 trio is full of felicitous touches and corporate sonority The Allegro con brio goes with verve and is most attractively paced – one certainly doesn’t miss the clarinet in this performance. The Archduke is mellifluous and relaxed, anchored by the splendid playing of Myung-Whun Chung. The string phrases are conciliatory rather than weighted or trenchant – though they’re not over-refined either. On their own terms the Chung trio meets the challenges of the work deftly and responsibly. They certainly catch the scherzo’s waywardness and bring subtle colour and bow weight to the slow movement. Ensemble is fine although I have to say I find the playing as such rather reserved.
 
That’s my main concern throughout the four performances. The recorded sound is excellent, the notes brief, but recommendation remains equivocal.
 
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Brian Wilson
 



 


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