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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio in C Major Hob XV:27 [18:12]
Piano Trio in E flat Major Hob XV:30 [17:46]
Piano Trio in F sharp Minor Hob XV:26 [13:58]
Piano Trio in G Major “Gypsy Rondo” Hob XV:25 [15:31]
Grieg Trio (Vebjørn Anvik (piano), Sølve Sigerland (violin), Ellen Margrete Flesjø (cello))
rec. 25-29 August 2014, Østsiden kirke, Fredrikstad, Norway
SIMAX PSC1267 [65:27]

Compared to the string quartets, Haydn’s numerous piano trios have not caught the attention of the general public. Possibly the only well-known work is the one in G major with the concluding ‘Gypsy Rondo’ famously recorded in the late 1920s by Cortot, Thibaud and Casals. According to H.C. Robbins Landon’s chronological list there are 45 known trios, some of them lost. The earliest come from the 1760s and the beginning of the 1770s. Then there is a considerable gap until 1784, from which point he produced a great number of mature works until 1797, when he was already at work on The Creation. It is the works from this period that are heard today.

A feature that is quickly observed when one listens also to the mature trios is the dominance of the piano. Charles Rosen explains this in his book The Classical Style by the relative weakness of the keyboard instruments at the time. The violin mostly plays the melody and is even then doubled by the piano. The cello is even further subordinated and doubles the bass of the piano. On the other hand Rosen states that together with Mozart’s piano concertos the piano part of Haydn’s trios is the most brilliant music written for the piano before Beethoven. What is also significant is that the trios are among his most harmonically bold compositions, something that is very obvious in the E flat major trio on this disc. The virtuosity of the piano part is highly entertaining and for sheer virtuosity and inventiveness his late trios are well worth the acquaintance.

The four trios on the present disc are all in three movements with an allegro opening followed by a slow movement and then a presto finale. There are a couple of deviations from that pattern. The trio in F sharp minor has a minuet as its last movement and the Gypsy trio opens with an andante followed by an adagio.

The C major trio has a rhythmically astute and highly spirited first movement with a contemplative and subdued andante as its middle movement. Then in the finale we are back in the care-free mood of the opening but even jollier. The E flat major has also a thrilling first movement. The second movement of the F sharp trio is borrowed from his symphony No. 102 and the celebrated G major unusually opens with a set of variations. The adagio is one of Haydn’s most beautiful melodies in ¾ time and who can resist the stirring finale?

The Grieg Trio was founded in 1987 and has been internationally active, receiving numerous awards and recording extensively for Simax, EMI and Virgin. These musicians' playing is fresh and inspired and with more than 25 years as an ensemble the rapport between the three feels instinctive. I have listened to two of the same trios with another highly acclaimed Scandinavian ensemble, Kungsbacka Piano Trio and found that there is little to choose between them. From both groups you get trio playing at the highest international level. Either or both will adorn any collection of chamber music.

Göran Forsling