WORKS: Piano Trio in A, Hob. XV:18; Piano Trio in C, Hob. XV:21; Piano Trio in G, Hob. XV:25; Piano Trio in E flat, Hob. XV:30
PERFORMER: Trio Fontenay
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-15857-2
Haydn’s late trios are arguably the most profound and visionary piano works before Beethoven; yet of these 30 or so masterpieces, no more than a single movement – the so-called ‘Gypsy Rondo’ from the Trio No. 25 – is at all well known. No doubt, cellists’ soloistic pride has something to do with the neglect of the remainder: the cello’s role is essential, but undeniably accompanimental.
The ‘Gypsy Rondo’, played with an appropriate whiff of goulash, is one of the works included on the Trio Fontenay’s disc. It’s an enjoyable recital, performed with obvious affection, though Wolf Harden’s piano playing can be rather stiff and unyielding: there is insufficient sense of line in the beautiful slow movement of the E flat Trio, No. 30, and the finale doesn’t sparkle as it should. In the closing bars, Haydn unleashes a torrent of notes which are faster than anything that has gone before. The Fontenay spoils the effect by slowing down – a compromise avoided by the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips), despite its quicker basic speed.
Using period instruments, Patrick Cohen, Erich Höbarth and Christophe Coin give warm, lingering performances of three trios from the late 1780s. Their beautifully recorded disc gives much pleasure, though one could have wished for more zest and energy in the finales. And in the middle section of the Adagio from the wonderful A flat Trio, No. 14 – another of Haydn’s gypsy excursions – Cohen’s rather polite playing pales in comparison with the wilder atmosphere conjured up by András Schiff and his colleagues. Misha Donat