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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio No. 43 in C major, Hob. XV27 (1796) [20:10]
Piano Trio No. 44 in E flat major, Hob. XV28 (1796) [16:50]
Piano Trio No. 45 in E flat major, Hob. XV29 (1796) [16:27]
Piano Trio No. 26 in C minor, Hob. XV13 (1789) [15:28]
Trio Opus 8: Eckhard Fischer (violin); Mario de Secondi (cello); Michael Huber (piano)
rec. September 2005, South  West German Radio

Haydn composed piano trios at every stage of his creative life, beginning during his years with Count Morzin in the 1750s, when both the piano and the composer were in their first stages of development. Three of these trios come right at the end of his catalogue, from 1796 after his two trips to London and his final symphonies. The C minor Trio is from several years earlier.
Whatever the dates, this is all the work of a highly experienced composer; yet when these pieces was published they were described not as trios, but rather as 'Sonatas for the pianoforte with an accompaniment for the violin and the violoncello'. In truth the music provides much more of a partnership of equals than this quaint description suggests. With the exception of the C minor Trio from 1789, there are three movements which follow the sequence of the baroque concerto da camera, with a more lyrical slow movement flanked by lively rhythmic music.
The Trio Opus 8 give stylish performances that are clearly recorded. Intonation is put under the spotlight and it is not found wanting. However despite the skilful string playing and Haydn’s well balanced textures, it is the pianist who has the central role. In every piece the tactic is for the right hand to tend to share the material with the violin, with the left hand sharing with the cello. The recording makes all this abundantly easy for the listener to perceive, even if in the slower and more introspective moments there is a certain lack of atmosphere, a matter-of-fact approach perhaps.
For an excellent example of the strengths of these performances, try the finale of the C major Trio. The lightning fast pace of the genuine tempo Presto demands the utmost virtuosity of the performers, and the music is well articulated here. The élan of the playing may not dispel memories of the great Beaux Arts Trio - at bargain price on Philips 422 831 2 - for whom this repertoire has always held a special appeal, but both the Opus 8 performance and the Hänssler recording remain thoroughly enjoyable and highly successful on their own terms.
Terry Barfoot


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