Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trios: Trio in D major Op. 70 No. 1; Trio in E flat major Op.70 No. 2
The Peabody Trio
Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, March 2003
ARTEK AR 0018-2 [65.44]

I tend to associate the Peabody Trio with contemporary repertoire but of course that can be a function of the recording industry in skewing perspectives. It’s true that this youthful, Naumberg Chamber Music Award winning trio has set down twentieth century literature for New World Records and for CRI but they opt for the canon in their debut disc for Artek.

I enjoyed it for its sane approach to tempi and for a pleasing tonal blend. They approach the Ghost Trio with neither reverence nor casualness. So there is abruptness and raptness (at the desolate, intensely reflective end of the opening movement) but well calibrated accents and sprung rhythm. The dynamics are tiered in the slow movement, sometimes daringly so, though always audibly and whilst neither of the string players – Violaine Melançon (violin), Natasha Brofsky (cello) – are big, meaty tonalists they are adept at integrating unison passages. Pianist Seth Knopp shines in the finale in particular – fine, even playing – flexible and light.

They approach the much less well-known companion, the E flat major, in a like spirit. There’s some well-judged pomposo phrasing, swelling dynamics and good attention to detail, as well as some moments of prayerful simplicity. I was most taken by the Schubertian cast they impart to the Allegretto second movement.

It would be interesting to hear them in Brahms – to see how they might aerate textures – but also in the French School where I have a strong feeling they will show affinities; not that they fail that test here. The recording is natural and well balanced.

Jonathan Woolf


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