Beethoven: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1/3; Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 11; Variations in E flat, Op. 44

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1/3; Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 11; Variations in E flat, Op. 44
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67466
This final instalment of the Florestan Trio’s complete Beethoven cycle is every bit as impressive as its predecessors. It’s true that with the exception of the early C minor Trio, Op. 1/3, the pieces recorded here aren’t quite top-drawer Beethoven, but they’re played with such imagination and insight that they come vividly to life. The Op. 44 Variations – in all likelihood Beethoven’s initial attempt at a finale for the first of his Op. 1 trios – can seem curiously dry, but the Florestan endows them with so much humour and affection that it’s hard not to respond. More obviously witty are the variations on an operatic hit of the day that form the finale of the Op. 11 Trio (originally for clarinet instead of violin, though the more conventionally scored transcription presented here is authentic). The last variation is in a lilting 6/8 rhythm, but just before the end there’s a deliberately jarring change in metre that’s usually used to bring the work to a mock-pompous close. The Florestan players take a different – and I think more plausible – view, actually accelerating the pulse to form a brilliant conclusion. No one who’s been following this fine series need hesitate to acquire this very well recorded disc. Misha Donat

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