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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trios - Volume 3

Piano Trio in C major, Hob. XV: 21 (1795) [15:59]
Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV:22 (1795) [18:09]
Piano Trio in D minor, Hob. XV:23 (1795) [18:23]
Piano Trio in A flat major, Hob. XV:14 (1790) [21:12]
Kungsbacka Piano Trio (Malin Broman (violin); Jesper Svedberg (cello); Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano))
rec. 6-9 Oct 2008, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK
NAXOS 8.572063 [73:43]

Lively accents and glimmerings of light seep through the opening bars of Haydn's Piano Trio in C major to begin this mesmerizingly beautiful CD.
 
All of the trios here (numbers 14, 21, 22, 23) follow a pattern of fast-paced first and third movements encasing a lamenting adagio. Haydn was one of the most prolific composers of the Classical period. With 107 symphonies, 83 string quartets, 45 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas, 14 masses, 26 operas, it is an understatement to refer to him as anything less than one of the most prolific of composers as well as being one of the most prominent and influential.
 
Formed in 1997, the astonishingly talented Kungsbacka Piano Trio adds a sense of vitality to Haydn's subtly lyrical pieces. Seeming to possess an otherworldly sense of telepathy, they flavour each performance with wit. Each phrase is instinct with carefully modulated intention and each note with unrestrained passion. In these capable hands Haydn's Piano Trios sound carefully chiselled rather than decoratively polished. Each musician reaches into the innermost core for its exuberance and its self-doubt. This penetrative and even downcast tone can be heard through the singing violin in the Piano Trio in D minor.
 
Using an exquisitely crafted 1748 Gagliano, Malin Broman takes slightly more of a lead role in the Piano Trio in E flat major as the violin steps up alongside Simon Crawford-Phillips on the piano. With his rare 1699 Grancino cello, Jesper Svedberg enriches the sound and creates a mellifluous ambience around the central roles. Never upstaging, but affording a comfortingly secure backdrop to Crawford-Phillips and Broman, Svedberg ensures that whilst he is never predominant, he is always assertive in his support. This is also felt in the at times sorrowful and forlorn A flat major work. The Adagio, with its softly bowed melody and sensitively plucked pizzicato is one of the most delicately tender episodes: unparalleled in sheer beauty of playing. At this moment, the listener shares a sense of repose and pain. All barriers between art and feeling appear to be surmounted, if only for a moment.
 
Upon listening to this CD, one can perhaps answer the question 'Is there a better trio in Western Europe?' posed by The Strad and say that there is no finer. Consummate musicians who play with utter grace, interrelatedness and individual virtuosity, these are instrumentalists of the highest order. Their 2011 recording of Chopin's Piano Trio in G minor is another astonishing performance and well worth tracking down. One feels not only in safe hands, but serenaded by brilliant hands. Here they deliver intuitive and insightful performances of Haydn's Piano Trios and are complemented by a fresh and balanced recording. Bravo!

Lucy Jeffery