Beethoven Piano Trios Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven Piano Trios Vol. 1
WORKS: Piano Trios in G and D; Allegretto in B flat; Variations in E flat
PERFORMER: Gould Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: SOMM0114

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This first instalment in the Gould Piano Trio’s complete Beethoven cycle has much to recommend it. The two shorter items here are particularly successful: the Allegretto in B flat, Wo 039, written in the wake of the Archduke Trio of 1811, and surely one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for beginners, and the Variations in E flat major, Op. 44 (c. 1792). The latter perhaps outstay their welcome, but they’re played with a delicate touch that makes each of the variations a pleasure to listen to individually.

The first movement of the Ghost Trio, Op. 70 No. 1, is performed with both repeats, which makes the serene coda all the more effective when it eventually arrives. Perhaps the sudden outbursts in the central section of the piece could have been more dramatic, and the shudder with which the famous spectral slow movement finally collapses doesn’t make its full effect. And in order to make way for the expansive view of the Ghost, the Trio Op. 1 No. 2 in G major is shorn of its first-movement repeat; and the opening solo piano passage in the slow movement, which forms the expressive high-point of the Op. 1 triptych, doesn’t quite plumb the music’s depths. But these are otherwise fine performances of the Piano Trios and with so much to enjoy, it’s churlish to complain.

The recording, from a concert given in St George’s Bristol last year (and with applause after each item), is meticulously balanced.

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Misha Donat