Franz Joseph HAYDN (1737-1809)
Trios for Piano, Flute and Cello: D major Hob.XV:16 [20:32]; G major Hob XV:15 [22:05]; F major Hob.XV:17 [16:01]
Annie Laflamme (flute); Dorothea Schönwiese-Guschlbauer (cello); Richard Fuller (fortepiano)
rec. Kartause Mauerbach, Austria, 23-26 October 2009

When Haydn was lured to London in 1791 the bait included a series of commissions, one being for a set of three trios for piano with flute and cello. At that time the flute was, as the title of a publication of the period indicates, “The Gentleman’s Amusement”, so that although he had written little music previously for it as a solo instrument he was now required to produce three works that have become classics of the repertoire of chamber music with flute. Not that the flute is the most important instrument. Like his more numerous Piano Trios with violin and cello the piano is in every way the senior partner, and it is possible to play them with pleasure, and for the most part with only minimal loss, as piano solos. Nonetheless the addition of the other instruments does at the very least give them their distinctive colour and enlivens the texture.

The first two Trios each have three movements, both starting with expansive first movements. These are especially expansive here as the repeats for both halves are taken resulting in them being longer in each case than the other two movements put together. The third Trio is in only two movements and again all possible repeats are taken. Perhaps surprisingly, in none of the Trios does this seem too much of a good thing. Admittedly, and possibly an inevitable consequence of the scoring, drama in these Trios is implicit in the music rather than more obviously applied, but it is certainly there. The D major Trio, for example, starts innocently enough but soon the music is travelling in wholly unexpected directions. The sheer civilized intelligence of the music is a real delight, no matter how often you have heard or played these works.

Much of the listener’s pleasure, however, on this disc comes as much from the performances as from the music. They are unforced, fresh and always alive, and have the great benefit of using appropriate instruments. My slight concern is over the sound of the cello as recorded here. For most of the time its main function is to reinforce the bass of the piano part, but the cello here sounds at times as though the performer thought of it as a solo part in its own right, and the result is an uncomfortably booming sound that detracts from the other parts. However this does not apply throughout and it was certainly not enough to put me off the performances as a whole. This is a disc of very attractive and engaging music, played and recorded so as to display it at its best.

John Sheppard

Very attractive and engaging music, played and recorded so as to display it at its best.