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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The complete Piano Trios - Vol. 4
Piano Trio in B flat major Op. 97, Archduke (1811 rev. 1814) [44.48]
Piano Trio in E flat major Op.1 No. 1 (1795) [30.23]
Piano Trio in E flat major Hess 48 (c. 1790) [3.37]
Gould Piano Trio (Lucy Gould (violin); Alice Neary (cello); Benjamin Frith (piano))
rec. live, St. George's Brandon Hill, Bristol, 23 May 2012
SOMM SOMMCD0144 [79.00]

I am straying out of my comfort zone, that of reviewing mainly19th/20th century British/French and Italian music to turn to Beethoven. It gives me the opportunity to reminisce about my student days when I first became acquainted with classical music and began to realise that chamber music was not boring but could be interesting, even riveting. That revelation came with the discovery of the Piano Trio and in particular Beethoven's monumental, magnificent Archduke Piano Trio in B flat major Op. 97.

I had been attracted to this disc after reading my colleague Brian Wilson's enthusiastic and erudite review of Volume 3 of this Somm Beethoven Piano Trios series. This CD included the Gould Piano Trio's performances of Trios in B flat and E flat on SOMMCD0135. Brian concluded his review by observing, "We're still waiting for the Gould Trio to give us the Archduke . I'm sure it will have been worth the wait ."

It certainly was well worth the wait. For me, this new recording of the Archduke compares very favourably with the best in the field including that made by the Beaux Arts Trio (Decca 47851530). The Gould perform this classic of the genre with affection, conviction and polish. Their opening Allegro moderato is truly imposing, its nobility tempered by lyrical beauty. Their Scherzo, second movement, is liltingly joyous, and stormy and argumentative too. The Andante is heartfelt from its opening hymn-like supplications to the varying moods of the variations from a light-hearted flightiness to a more lyrical sentimentality. As for their finale, it is a pure elated headlong indulgence.

The epic dimensions of the Archduke Trio are well contrasted with the Piano Trio in E flat major which Beethoven wrote in his mid-twenties. Strongly influenced by Haydn and Mozart, this work is nevertheless strikingly original.

I am writing this short review mainly, I hope, as a support to the more expansive and more knowledgeable comments of Brian Wilson. Safe to say that I enjoyed immensely this latest release in Somm's Beethoven Piano Trio series.

Ian Lace


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