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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio No. 27 in A flat major, Hob. XV/14 (1790) [18:54]
Piano Trio No. 32 in A major, Hob. XV/18 (1793) [13:55]
Piano Trio No. 35 in C major, Hob. XV/21 (1794) [12:32]
Piano Trio No. 40 in F sharp major (?), Hob. XV/26 (1795) [12:21]
Piano Trio No. 41 in E flat major, Hob. XV/31 (1797) [10:58]
Trio Wanderer
rec. 2017, Teldex Studio, Berlin
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902321 [68:42]

It’s taken quite a while for Trio Wanderer to return to Haydn. Their other recording of his trios, for the now defunct Le Chant du Monde label (since reissued on Harmonia Mundi) was back in 2001, and comprised trios 39 and 43-45. Since then, they have concentrated on mostly Romantic composers, with generally acclaimed results.

The sensible approach of presenting the trios in chronological order is taken on the CD; the middle three derive from his London visits. For me, No. 40, part of the group of three that also contains the very popular Gypsy Rondo trio, is the standout. You will note in the header that I have put a question mark next to the key, shown as it appears in the booklet. All other sources of information about this work that I can find indicate that it is in F sharp minor (only the slow movement is in the major). The slow movement is essentially the same as that in Symphony No. 102, though in a different key. Sturm und Drang it may not be, but it is certainly a more sombre and intense trio than others he wrote, including the aforementioned Gypsy Rondo.

When my Piano Trio survey reached Haydn, I commented that it took me a number of listens to be convinced by the Wanderer’s dramatic and swift approach in their first recording. Would a decade and a half make a difference to their approach? The answer is no, not really, but after several listens, I’m not entirely on board this time. Much of these works is on the quieter, less showy end of the Haydn spectrum. Trio Wanderer emphasise this rather darker atmosphere, giving Haydn a depth that can be missing from other performances. However, there are still instances of his impish humour, the finales of 32 & 35 being obvious examples, and I’m not getting any smiles from Trio Wanderer. It is perhaps a little relentless, lacking some light to contrast with the shade.

The playing of this trio is always exemplary, especially the tonal qualities of the three instruments, and this new release is no exception. The engineers have provided a quite rich and warm sound which suits the performances. The booklet notes provide good musicological analysis as well as historical information, ignoring the key error.

Aficionados of this ensemble will no doubt grab their new recording and enjoy it greatly. For those simply wanting a set of well-played late Haydn trios, again this will suit, though I would direct you to the Florestan (Hyperion) and Kungsbacka (Naxos) Trios for performances that breathe and smile a little more.

David Barker

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