Samples & Downloads
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trios – Volume 1
Piano Trio No.26 (40) in F sharp minor, Hob.XV:26 (1795) [13:52]
Piano Trio No.24 (38) in D major, Hob.XV:24 (1795) [12:20]
Piano Trio No.25 (39) in G major, Hob.XV:25 (1795) [14:46]
Piano Trio No.31 (41) in E flat minor, Hob.XV:31 (1797) [11:37]
Kungsbacka Piano Trio (Malin Broman (violin), Jesper Svedberg (cello),
Simon Crawford Phillips (piano))
rec. April 2008, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK. DDD
NAXOS 8.572040 [52:35]
Joseph Haydn was a thorough guy. If he wrote symphonies, he
did over a hundred. If he wrote string quartets, he did almost
seventy. In piano trios, he stopped at 45. These trios, from
the earliest to the latest, are pure delight. For the most part
they are upbeat and jovial, just like most Haydn’s output was.
But there is enough diversity, as the present selection performed
by the Kungsbacka trio demonstrates. Note that there may seem
to be a gap in the numeration of trios, but actually they go
in a chronological sequence, since later research lead to corrections
of the original numeration of the Hoboken catalog.
The Kungsbacka trio was formed in 1997 and has since earned
an international recognition; it has already recorded for Naxos
the piano trios by Mozart and Schubert. As the liner note informs
us, the group’s name was taken from the town in Sweden where
they gave their first public performance, and where they established
an annual festival.
The first movement of the F sharp minor Trio is in a
minor key and starts in a somewhat melancholic mood, but this
is Haydn’s “active melancholy”, with the major key lying not
so far under the surface. The long and elaborate development
section ventures deeper into the minor and shows some unexpected
dramatic points and fascinating modulations. The slow movement
is an adaptation of the slow movement of the London symphony
No.102, with its subtle beauties. It is a widely flowing, pastoral
aria. The third movement is not what you’d probably expect from
a Haydn finale. It is unhurried and almost serious, with proto-Schubertian
grace. The playing of the Kungsbacka trio is excellent in the
first movement, and their finale is elegant and has good momentum.
But in the slow movement I find their performance a bit hassled.
The first movement of the D major Trio is a typical sonata
allegro of the classical period, playful and free. It resembles
the first movements of some of Mozart’s piano concertos. The
shadows darken in the development section, with its mysterious
notes and a certain creeping coldness. The slow movement is
gray and gloomy, like a slow march or procession. The skies
brighten up again in the finale, with the telling marking Allegro
ma dolce. Its middle episode is dark and nervous, but it
is surrounded by warm and tender music with a soft smile. In
Kungsbacka’s reading, the first movement is a fast ride, but
not uncomfortably fast. The slow movement is full of restrained
expressivity. In the finale, they are fast, which on one hand
reduces the healing qualities of this music, but on the other
hand increases the drama of the minor-key episode, and makes
it feel more like a true finale.
The first movement of the G major Trio is a lark’s song,
alternating between major and minor key. It is an expressive
and beautiful set of variations, very Haydnesque, light without
shallowness and profound without pompousness. The slow movement
is an ethereal romance. It starts calm but gradually reaches
passionate heights. The third part is the famous Rondo all’ongarese
with its Gypsy and Balkanian twists and imitations of folk instruments.
It is happy music, festive and carefree, sewn out of many colorful
bits like the costume of Harlequin. The Kungsbacka are sensitive
in the first movement. They express emotions without adding
external pressure. Their slow movement is again on the fast
side. I feel that something is missing. Maybe because of this
faster tempo the music does not breathe, it rushes forward,
and though it still leaves a profound impression, I am not sure
this impression is as deep as it could be in a more relaxed
interpretation. The finale is effective, with smart accents.
The performers use slight rubato and change the tempo
sometimes, to bring a more Gypsy atmosphere. The cello provides
excellent droning bass.
The Trio in E flat minor returns us to the minor mode.
This work shows more wisdom and weariness than the elegant lightness
and jolliness displayed in the earlier trios. It has only two
parts, but the deep sense of form allowed the composer to balance
the long and contemplative first movement with a short, encouraging
second. The first movement combines the features of variations
and rondo. The music flows as a narration. This story has bright
and sad pages, like a story of life. But Haydn would not be
Haydn if he kept on sulking and brooding. The short finale is
as sunny and cheerful as you could expect from Haydn. It is
not ebullient, but has a gallant dignity. In the first movement,
the Kungsbacka are thoughtful and give the music some weight.
In the second, their performance is noble and natural.
This impression – noble and natural – can be extended to the
entire disc. The musicians of the Kungsbacka piano trio exhibit
excellent, deep understanding of the music of Joseph Haydn,
the music that above all requires not the virtuosity, not the
emotionality, but understanding. The recording is very clear,
with a good special definition. The sound is not flat. The three
instruments blend perfectly. The selection of the trios on this
disc provides enough diversity, so the listening never becomes
boring. If you want to explore more of Haydn’s trios, then the
classic Beaux Arts box on Phillips has them all in an unbeatable
set that will grant you hours and hours of listening bliss.
But if having absolutely all the trios seems too much for you
(and indeed, the early ones are not at the level of the mature
ones), then this set by the Kungbacka is an excellent and easily
affordable entry point. Interpretation-wise, they are not radically
different from the Beaux Arts, though I feel that the Beaux
Arts give more breadth and breathe to the slow movements. Also,
the Beaux Arts observe more repeats, which in my opinion serves
to better balance the structures. The advantage of the Kunsbacka
is some additional feeling of spontaneity, more contrast and
The liner notes by Keith Anderson are in genuine Naxos-style:
compact yet informative. In a short space they tell the story
of Haydn’s life and the context of creation of the four works,
together with a somewhat dry musical analysis of the pieces.
see also review by Michael Greenhalgh