The engineers here have gone for an integrated view of the sound-space
rather than an overt foregrounding of the piano. Initially I
felt that the strings were too close, and the piano rather recessed,
making it far easier for the ear to lock on to the string activity.
The ear adjusts quickly and this is not off-putting but it is
that the recording does not flatter the string instruments, making
the violin’s long cantilena in the slow movement of the
C major more of a chore to endure. The cello response survives
This is interesting repertoire. Beethoven’s Piano Trios
are far better known than his Piano Quartets, the latter of which
do not even own opus numbers. Beethoven was a mere fifteen when
he wrote them. They are clearly the work of a precocious talent.
This Naxos issue has presented the works in what it believes
to be the original order. Artaria published them in the numbered
The slow movement of the first, if heard without warning, is
sure to raise an eyebrow. The theme is that of the slow movement
of the Piano Sonata Op. 2/1 of 1793-95. A transitional phrase
from the first movement similarly reappears later elsewhere,
specifically in Op. 2/3. The first movement is bright, with much
fizzing passagework. The finale mirrors the first in that it
is joyful and carefree.
The E flat Quartet begins with a slow movement: Adagio assai.
It is an extended utterance of some depth, far too expansive
to be construed as a slow introduction to the fiery Allegro
that follows. The sedate, tranquil, cantabile
theme that heads the finale is subjected to a sequence of generally
gallant variations - there is one stormier variation, the fifth.
The work’s close is deliciously witty.
Finally, the D major. This is not the brightest D major, rather
one that seeks to explore a variety of different shades, so more
carefree sections rub shoulders with more intense moments. The
central Andante con moto
is warm and welcoming, while
the finale’s theme celebrates its own deliberate naïveté.
Well worth exploring, therefore.