Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trios – Volume 4
Trio No. 3 in c minor, op. 1/3 (1793/4) [29:48]
Trio No. 4 in B flat major, “Gassenhauer”, op. 11 (1798) [21:39]
Variations in E flat major, op. 44 (1792?) [12:25]
TrioVanBeethoven (Clemens Zeilinger (piano), Verena Stourzh (violin), Franz Ortner (cello))
rec. April 2016, Franz Liszt Zentrum Raiding, Burgenland, Austria
GRAMOLA 99120 [63:53]
TrioVanBeethoven bring to a close their survey of the complete trios of the composer whom they have chosen - some might say bravely - to name themselves after. I encountered them first in Volume 3, and I was exceptionally impressed (review). The Trio changed cellists between Volume 1 and Volume 2, and quite remarkably, Gramola allowed them to re-record the first volume (review). I find that not only have I not reviewed Volume 2, I don’t actually own it – I will need to address that sooner rather than later.
The three works on this final disc are not among the more travelled paths in the Beethoven trio repertoire. They do have a musical connection by way of their use of variations, with No. 3’s slow movement and No. 4’s finale comprising theme and variations.
Beethoven’s opus 1 trios are surely among the best works ever to be given the honour of a composer’s first publication. I particularly adore the second, but there is no doubting the quality of all three. No. 3 is in the key that he would make famous a decade or so later, and the first movement even bears the tempo marking of Allegro con brio! I feel that TvB is lacking a little in brio here, but when I listened to the Florestan Trio, I had the same reaction; Trio Wanderer strikes me as the best in this movement. I have no such problems with TvB’s performance of the remainder of the work.
Trio No. 4 gains its nickname from the name given to songs whistled or sung by almost everyone, notably night-time revellers. In this instance, Beethoven employs a melody in vogue at the time from the 1797 comic opera L’amor marinaro ossia Il corsaro by Joseph Weigl as the inspiration for the third movement variations. It was originally written with clarinet instead of violin, and Beethoven soon produced a version for the more conventional grouping. Of Beethoven’s seven full trios, I would say that it ranks a fairly clear last in musical inspiration. The performance here makes about as much of it as there is to make.
The E flat variations are a much earlier work than their opus number suggests. They are very clearly the work of a composer in the process of dealing with the complexities of writing for the combination; the difference in quality between this work and the soon to be written three opus 1 trios is quite remarkable. Beethoven learnt his lessons very quickly; no surprise there.
TrioVanBeethoven does not storm the barricades like some; these are graceful, smiling performances, and some will prefer a more vigorous approach. As I have said in a previous review, Beethoven’s trios as a group strike me as among his happiest works, so TvB’s approach fits my sense of how the works should be. This set is up there with the Florestan Trio on Hyperion. If you already own that, you might feel that you do not need these; let me suggest that if you love these trios, you should have these in your collection. The recording venue is the same as with previous volumes, and provides an excellent acoustic.
If you haven’t purchased any of the previous volumes, this is not the one to start with – go for Volume 3. Those of you who have already taken the plunge with TrioVanBeethoven should need little persuasion to complete your set. I should also note that Gramola have released a boxset of all four CDs with the trio in this lineup at a considerable saving.