Beethoven: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1/3; Variations in E flat, Op. 44; Variations on ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’, Op. 121a

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1/3; Variations in E flat, Op. 44; Variations on ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’, Op. 121a
PERFORMER: Trio Parnassus
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 303 1052-2
In the first two trios of Op. 1, Beethoven’s radicalism was still cloaked in the language of the comedy of manners. With the C minor Trio it erupts in music of unprecedented explosive vehemence and dark lyric beauty – small wonder that Haydn doubted whether the Viennese were yet ready for such a work. The Parnassus Trio brings plenty of Beethovenian truculence to the outer movements, and plays up the extreme contrasts in the Andante variations – between, say, the skittish pizzicato variation, No. 3, and the withdrawn E flat minor variation that follows, where cello and violin trace a blanched, spectral line. Reservations are prompted by patches of slightly sour tuning from the violin, and a minuet that seems a tad slow and muted: other groups, including the Beaux Arts, on its classic Philips recordings, and the lighter-toned Vienna Piano Trio, suggest more potently the disruptive passion just beneath the music’s surface. Set against this, though, are the close rapport between the three players (balance is well-nigh ideal, with a firmly drawn cello line) and such moments as the Parnassus’s poetic timing and shading of the finale’s smouldering pianissimo coda. The Parnassus also gives colourfully characterised accounts of the two sets of variations, where, typically, Beethoven uses bare, banal themes to ingenious and gruffly humorous ends. Richard Wigmore

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