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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio No. 39 in G major, Hob. XV/25 Gypsy Rondo [14:35]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in E-flat major, Op. 70 No. 2 [24:06]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Trio No. 2 in C major, Op. 87 [25:22]
Alma Trio
rec. 1950s, Mono
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1451 [64:06]

The Alma Trio boasted an impressive line-up. It was formed with the encouragement of Yehudi Menuhin in 1942, and took its name from the great violinist's Alma Estate in Los Gatos, California. The original members were Roman Totenberg, violin, Gabor Rejto, cello, and Adolph Baller, piano. Baller had fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and had become a guest of Menuhin, acting as his regular pianist. The Trio had several changes of personnel along the way. Maurice Wilk replaced Totenberg in 1953, and he was replaced by Andor Toth in 1963. William Corbett Jones replaced Baller as pianist when the latter retired in 1971. The Trio finally disbanded in 1976. Between 1982 until 1986, Andor Toth, Gabor Rejto and Adolph Baller regrouped again for a few concerts mainly in the Northern California Bay Area. On this release, the original line-up is featured, so it is more or less certain that these recordings were set down between 1950 and 1953.

Although Haydn's ubiquitous "Gypsy Rondo" Trio is well-worn, the Alma Trio give it new life in a lively and stylish account. The Poco adagio central movement is expressively eloquent and flowing, whilst the Presto finale is performed with infectious abandon and light-hearted humour.

The choice of Beethoven's Op. 70 No. 2 to follow is appropriate, as the work is permeated with the influence of Haydn. I much prefer No. 2 to the more well-known "Ghost" Trio, the first of the set. An abundance of lyricism, harmonic surprises and frequent changes of mood all add to the wealth of interest the work provides. What I like about this performance is that it feels so relaxed and smiles, with the players obviously enjoying themselves.

I am very taken with the Brahms Trio. The first movement is imbued with lyrical intensity, with the players fully probing the work’s rich textures. The slow movement is ardent and tender, and there is some impressive crisply articulated bowing in the Scherzo. An invigorating finale, with heaps of gusto, calls time on a compelling reading.

These mono recordings, skilfully remastered from Allegro LPs (AL 4 and AL49), emerge with a glowing radiance. The performers are well-balanced in the mix; no one dominates. The Alma Trio play with an ingratiating warmth. The only disappointment is the choice of Haydn Trio. I wish the Almas had chosen a different one. After all, the composer wrote forty-three, and the "Gypsy Rondo" has been flogged to death over the years. Some Haydn devotees, like myself, tire of it somewhat. Forgotten Records do not provide notes with this release, but steer the listener in the direction of some relevant websites.

Stephen Greenbank 




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