Haydn: Piano Trio No. 38 in D; Piano Trio No. 39 in G; Piano Trio No. 40 in F sharp minor (Hob XV:24, 25, 26)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 38 in D; Piano Trio No. 39 in G; Piano Trio No. 40 in F sharp minor (Hob XV:24, 25, 26)
PERFORMER: Patrick Cohen (piano), Erich Höbarth (violin), Christophe Coin (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901514 DDD
Is this the sound of Haydn in love? These three piano trios, composed during his second visit to London in 1794-5, were dedicated to Rebecca Schroeter, a young widow with whom Haydn had formed a close, possibly amorous relationship during his visit to the city.

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The music is exquisitely crafted, though this is true too of the 11 other piano trios Haydn wrote in the 1790s, splendid pieces all. Yet these three are special. No. 38 was described by Rosemary Hughes (in her Haydn biography) as ‘the most beautiful of all the trios… irradiated by that sunset calm that is so peculiarly his’. No. 39 has proved the most popular trio, the zestful dance rhythms of its ‘Gypsy Rondo’ making a scintillating finale. In contrast, the intense No. 40 seems haunted by tragedy, its Adagio cantabile one of Haydn’s loveliest and saddest tunes.

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This is the fourth disc from what will be the first complete set of Haydn piano trios on period instruments. Cohen, Höbarth and Coin maintain the high standards of earlier volumes, astutely balancing vigour and subtlety, elegance and passion. The Beaux Arts Trio (Philips) remains incomparable on modern instruments, but no Haydn aficionado should miss this persuasive new recording.