Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 3; Horn Trio; Clarinet Trio

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 3; Horn Trio; Clarinet Trio
PERFORMER: Stephen Stirling (horn), Richard Hosford (clarinet); Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67251/2
A colleague once dubbed Brahms’s Horn Trio ‘the pocket Heldenleben’. His euphemism simply underscored the fact that most performances of this work misrepresent it abysmally. Stephen Stirling’s capable if unglamorised horn playing compliantly resists any showy heroics. But dutiful circumspection makes this account seem too cautious, affording little competition for either the lustrous Barry Tuckwell on Decca or the poignantly reflective Michael Thompson on Chandos. Richard Hosford’s symbiotic and sensitive handling of the Clarinet Trio is another matter, and a warmer, more intellectually authoritative and naturally coercive reading would be difficult to locate.

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The Florestan’s readings of Brahms’s conventionally-scored trios are certainly accomplished, and at times exceptionally beautiful, but hardly destined to supersede the benchmark Beaux Arts Trio recordings on Philips. The youthful Piano Trio, Op. 8, is heard in its substantially revised 1888-9 version, though Hyperion’s ‘complete’ edition of the Brahms Trios somehow overlooks the posthumous A major trio unearthed in Bonn in 1924, but included in the Beaux Arts’ mid-priced Philips Duo set – still a clear winner. Michael Jameson