Beethoven: Piano Trios Volume 3

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Beethoven: Piano Trios Volume 3
PERFORMER: Xyrion Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570255

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The booklet notes have no hesitation in accepting the piano trio version of the Second Symphony as Beethoven’s own, but it’s very unlikely he had anything to do with it. It’s true that it was issued as though it were his, but so were a good many other unauthentic transcriptions of his music – so much so that on one occasion he was moved to write  an open letter warning publishers not to impugn his name in that way.

Inevitably, the straightforward trio arrangement of the Symphony can’t convey the weight of the original piece, and it’s virtually impossible to play the quick movements up to speed. The members of the Xyrion Trio do what they can with it (though they could surely have made more out of the Scherzo’s dynamic contrasts), but the whole thing sounds like a travesty.

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Beethoven wouldn’t have been proud to acknowledge authorship of the isolated Allegretto dating from the early 1790s, either, and we have to wait for the last of his Op. 1 trios – his first work in his favourite dramatic key of C minor – to hear his authentic voice. Here, the Xyrion Trio respond well to the music’s drama and urgency, offering a performance of considerable intelligence and insight, though it’s a pity that Naxos’s sound, with the players placed exaggeratedly far apart, is so unflattering. Misha Donat