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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Concerto for violin, cello and piano in C major, Op. 56 (1803) [34:50]
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 ‘Archduke’ (1811) [36:25]
Storioni Trio; Netherlands Symphony Orchestra/Jan Willem de Wriend
rec. 2-3 July 2012, Muziekcentrum Enschede (Concerto), 8-10 October 2012, Evangelisch Lutherse Church Haarlem (Trio)
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72579 [71:15] 

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is a concerto for piano trio and orchestra, so to couple a recording of it on the same CD as the greatest of his piano trios makes compelling sense as well as excellent value as far as the collected timings are concerned.
 
The two works are separated by several years, but they are both examples of the composer operating at the height of his powers. Beethoven composed his Triple Concerto during 1803-4, a period of astonishing creative activity which also saw the composition of the Eroica symphony, the Waldstein and Appassionata piano sonatas, and the first version of the opera Fidelio. The concerto, like the trio, was written for his patron, the Archduke Rudolf, who was its first piano soloist and whose private orchestra gave the first performance.
 
The Storioni Trio hails from the Netherlands, and take their name from the 1794 Cremona violin played by their leader Wouter Wossen. Here they play on ‘original instruments’. The booklet notes confirm the identity of the 1815 Lagrasse fortepiano and the fact that the strings are gut rather than steel. Likewise the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra play on historically informed instruments. The whole sound and aesthetic of the performance is determined by these instrumental combinations.
 
The Storioni Trio is an ensemble to be reckoned with, and their performance is nuanced towards every detail of Beethoven’s phrasing and dynamic range. The orchestra too, under Jan Willem de Wriend, is sensitive in supporting the solo group. As such the performance in this beautifully engineered CD deserves the highest praise. It has a certain intimacy of manner, so anyone wanting something more dramatic and challenging should look elsewhere, perhaps to the famous recording featuring Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, with Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Richter (EMI 6787052). 

In the Archduke Trio the issues are slightly different, since this recorded performance is not the only available version to have historically informed priorities. A fine alternative might be that by the Arcadia Trio, for example, coupled with the Trio Op. 1 No. 3 and the Kakadu Variations (Bella Musica BM 31.2172). The Storioni performance is beautifully judged, however, and unless heroic grandeur is required it is immensely tasteful and satisfying. Much of this success is down to the recorded sound, which is even more atmospheric and truthful here than in the admittedly fine recording of the concerto.
 
Terry Barfoot 

Masterwork Index: Beethoven triple concerto