Beethoven: Piano Trios, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Trios, Vol. 4: Trios for Piano, Clarinet and Cello: No. 8, Op. 38; No. 4, Op. 11 (Gassenhauer)
PERFORMER: Ib Hausmann (clarinet), Maria Kliegel (cello), Nina Tichman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570943

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The previous instalment of this series included an arrangement of Symphony No. 2, though it’s very unlikely that Beethoven had anything to do with it. At least the trio version of the Op. 20 Septet that is featured on this new disc is authentic, if still slightly utilitarian.

Beethoven made the arrangement as a gesture of goodwill to his doctor, who was an amateur violinist, and it transfers most of the tricky violin passages – including a wholesale cadenza in the finale – to the piano.

Another reason for the substitution in the case of the cadenza was that the arrangement was published with an alternative part for the clarinet, as used on this recording. The playing itself is lively and alert, and hearing the music in this unfamiliar form is refreshing.

The septet’s minuet movement takes over the tune of the finale from Beethoven’s early Piano Sonata Op. 49 No. 2, and a vestige of the same melody lurks behind the slow movement of the Clarinet Trio Op. 11. Again, this is an enjoyable performance, with Ib Hausmann’s clarinet playing a particular pleasure throughout.

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The trio’s finale is a set of variations based on an operatic hit of the day, and Hausmann captures its air of jaunty insouciance perfectly. The engineers have served the players well, with only the cello sounding a touch over-resonant. Misha Donat