Beethoven: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 3 - Van Baerle Trio
Challenge Classics CC 72781
Classical - Chamber
Beethoven: Piano Trios 5 & 6, Variations on an Original Theme
Van Baerle Trio
The year 1808 was a period of superlative productivity for Beethoven: In the midst of all this, Beethoven somehow found the time and energy to compose two major piano trios. They were completed while Beethoven was living with Countess Marie Erdödy, to whom the trios were also dedicated.
Some previous piano trios were rather lengthy affairs with pretentions to the symphonic repertoire, but the opening movement of op. 70 no. 1 immediately lets the listener know that this time, things are different. The piece starts seemingly in medias res with a tempestuous figure in all three instruments at the same time. The second movement is the one that gave the trio its nickname ‘ghost’. Carl Czerny, Beethoven’s student, seems to have been the first to use this name. According to him, the movement ‘resembles an appearance from the underworld. One could think not inappropriately of the first appearance of the ghost in Hamlet’. Superficially, the sibling of the ‘Ghost’ may seem closer to Haydn and Mozart in style.
For a long time, the Variations op. 44 were known as ‘Variations on an Original Theme’, as the first publication did not name the theme. It has since been identified as a theme by Dittersdorf. The variations were presumably written in 1792 and published in 1804, when various other early works were being offered to publishers.
Review by Adrian Quanjer - November 13, 2018
With this third volume the Van Baerle Trio confirm being well on their way to deliver a complete set that doesn’t turn pale in the face of the very best available in any format. Moreover, theirs has the advantage of boasting a supreme sound quality. Not only because of the use of Chris Maene’s purpose built ‘Straight Strings Concert Grand’ (without interference of crossed strings) with a sound image somewhere in between ‘old and new’, giving the music a pleasingly warm fundament, but also Bert van der Wolf’s peerless recording technique, almost wiping out (depending on the quality of the sound reproduction) the difference between the concert hall and a private listening room. Quite exceptional, really.
In both piano trios Op. 70 the van Baerle Trio, clearly shunning any hint of sentimentalism or exaggerated drama, play with authority and elegance, conveying the nobility of the dedicatee, Countess Marie Erdödy. The following variations Op. 44 become a moment of sheer joy. Under their capable hands each variation (of a theme by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf) unravels Beethoven’s ingenious handling of the material in simply textured melodies reminiscent of the unequalled simplicity Haydn expressed in his best piano trios. I suggest that meanwhile listeners read Martin Noorduin’s clarifying liner notes, which are, as before, of a pleasant and informative nature.
I do hope that I’ll be excused of giving a final verdict as long as the set is not complete, but so far it has all the hallmarks of becoming a much desirable one.
Copyright © 2018 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net