WORKS: String Trios, Op. 9/1, 2, 3
PERFORMER: Leopold Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67254
These beautiful and sadly neglected pieces were Beethoven’s means of dipping a toe into chamber music waters without invoking direct comparison with the great string quartet legacy of Haydn and Mozart. Not that they are in any sense apprentice works – indeed, the three Trios Op. 9 can fully stand comparison with Beethoven’s much better-known first set of Quartets, Op. 18. The last of them is a dramatic work in the composer’s characteristically turbulent C minor vein; but its two companion-pieces, together with the six-movement Trio, Op. 3, lovingly modelled on Mozart’s great string trio Divertimento, K563, show his early style at its most attractive. Only the rather primitively scored Serenade, Op. 8, is curiously below par.
This repertoire has been recorded by some world-famous artists in the past, but no performances have given me as much pleasure as these from the young Leopold Trio. Its playing has all the freshness and vitality the music needs, and its interpretations are unfailingly musical and intelligent. In the minuet of Op. 9/1 it even plays a rejected second trio section (also present, it is true, on the DG recording by Mutter, Giuranna and Rostropovich), and makes a strong case for its inclusion. A real treat.