Beethoven

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven: String Trio in E flat
WORKS: String Trio in E flat, Op. 3; Serenade in D, Op. 8
PERFORMER: Trio Zimmerman
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2087

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Before Beethoven composed his triptych of String Trios Op. 9, he wrote two multi-movement works for the same ensemble – one of them essentially a divertimento, the other a serenade. The blueprint for the six-movement String Trio, Op. 3 was Mozart’s great trio Divertimento K563, but Beethoven’s is a highly individual work and beautifully scored for the medium.

It’s hard to say the same for the Op. 8 Serenade – a piece of pure entertainment-music, it’s true, but one that’s awkwardly written in mock-orchestral style and with rather undistinguished material. That doesn’t stop Frank Peter Zimmermann and his colleagues from having fun with it: in the minuet, they can’t decide whether the grace notes should be played
short or long, so they do them one way the first time, and another on the repeat; and in the penultimate variation movement they very effectively treat the minor-mode variation as an agitato.

The nervous energy and lightning‑quick changes of mood of the opening movement in the Op. 3 Trio are brilliantly conveyed, though there’s a small error of judgement near the close, where Beethoven concocts a false ending before the music unexpectedly starts up again. Zimmermann and his colleagues make heavy weather of the joke by creating a pompous mock-ending, and elongating the pause that follows. But these are supremely polished accounts, and they make an altogether worthy companion disc to the same artists’ award-winning recording of the Op. 9 series.

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Misha Donat