Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
String Trios, op.9:-
No. 1 in G major (1796-98) [25:10]
No. 2 in D major (1796-98) [22:16]
No. 3 in C minor (1796-98) [23:37]
Erick Friedman (violin), Emanuel Vardi (viola), Jascha Silberstein (cello)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD165 [71:06]
Three tonally and expressively compatible musicians are needed to elicit the most from Beethoven’s early string trios. That is certainly the case here, with the collaboration of three elite string players. Erick Friedman, whose youthful training with Heifetz was confirmed on disc and video, is joined by Emanuel Vardi, one of the most eminent violists of the second half of the twentieth century, and by Jascha Silberstein (1934-2008), less well known than his confreres, but who acquits himself with distinction here.
These 1977 recordings capture a wide sound spectrum, neither abrasively close - though the playing can be assertive and trenchant when necessary - nor too billowing such as to diffuse unisons. It allows one to concentrate on the core of things. Ensemble is tight, vibrato usage well calibrated, the emotional temperature remaining quite appropriately, reserved in the first two and more engaged in the case of the most sophisticated trio, the C minor. They bring out the strongly lyrical core of the G major, with virtuosity subjugated in the interests of a more malleable communicative spirit. Pathos is mined in the slow movement, and a brisk, bright and engaging spirit develops in the Presto finale. The three players colour vividly and well.
What is refreshing about these performances is the sense of lively interplay, something very audible in the D major where the slow movement, an Andante quasi Allegretto is well judged. There’s nothing clammy here, the phrasing remaining clean-limbed but not cool. It’s the C minor that draws out the most ardent phrasing and tonal breadth from the trio, especially Friedman. A tautly expressive ethos floods the Adagio, but the sureness of the rhythm precludes any wallowing. The three string players bring considerable clarity to their playing, thus revealing many contrapuntal subtleties, and never allow things to obscure harmonic shifts. They also ensure that these details are not unduly attention-grabbing, not an easy balancing act to accomplish. At points the playing may strike one as too spruce, but I think as a whole it remains finely moderated.
Three tonally and expressively compatible musicians elicit the most from Beethoven’s early string trios.