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Pristine Audio Direct

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 97, Archduke (1811) [43’04].
Jean Fournier (violin); Antonio Janigro (cello); Paul Badura-Skoda (piano).
Recording originally released in 1952 on Westminster. ADD

The Westminster catalogue remains to this day eternally fascinating … and eagerly collected! Of the three instrumentalists here, it is Badura-Skoda who has been feted by the record companies recently - several multi-disc sets feature. His status as editor and scholar is well known; his musicality here is everywhere evident. This performance, led by Badura-Skoda, is marked by the utmost sensitivity.

This Pristine Audio issue ( shows that there is space still for internet-based Classical activity - MusicWeb readers may recall the ill-fated activities of Ludwigvanweb, an early venture in this field. CDs can either be downloaded, or ordered over the web to arrive by post.

The performance itself is a model of what chamber music should be: a masterly interplay of three equals. The first movement is really quite sprightly although there are more interior accounts. There are true moments of magic here and Badura-Skoda’s superb staccati provide much joy and moments of mystery, too. If there is a complaint, it is that the piano can sometimes come across as rather muffled. Janigro’s cello has plenty of depth in the lower registers.

The outdoor feeling of some of the first movement is heard in full light of day in the Scherzo but even here it is counterbalanced by some creepy, slithery, exploratory lines. When the more celebratory theme explodes out of this dark excursion, it could perhaps have been even more outgoing. By far the finest movement is the rapt, ‘Andante cantabile ma pero con moto’. Exquisitely balanced, this is fine Beethoven playing. Janigro again distinguishes himself in his burnished lyricism. The actual recorded sound could have a touch more depth to it to do the player full justice.

The finale is interesting. It is light, but nevertheless it is distinctly coloured by the experiences of the foregoing three movements, especially the Andante cantabile. It is as if they justify the more dramatic moments.

Fascinating. Note there is another ‘Archduke’ from this company (PACM022, with Solomon/Holst/Pini). As a performance, the present recording does not displace the EMI Barenboim/Du Pré/Zukerman from my affections (recorded around 1970), but it remains highly characterful, always musical and well worth exploring. The transfer is of the very highest quality.

Colin Clarke



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