WORKS: Piano Trios, Hob. XV:24, 25, 26, 31 & 32
PERFORMER: Trio 1790
CATALOGUE NO: 999 828-2
Five late Haydn trios on one disc, including the famous ‘Gypsy Rondo’, seem an enticing prospect. And if you like your Haydn brisk, direct and slightly astringent, these skilful period performances may give pleasure. That said, Trio 1790 consistently underestimates the poetry and shadows of this glorious music. The opening movement of No. 24, for instance, is lively enough. But I don’t sense any special response to Haydn’s witty and mysterious shifts to distant keys. Rhythms are hard-driven, accents over-punchy; and when rubato is applied it tends to sound as if the brakes are being slammed on. The Allegro ma dolce finale of the same Trio is anything but dolce – this music cries out for an expressive flexibility that doesn’t seem to be in Trio 1790’s armoury. The minuet finale of No. 26 is another movement to suffer from a swift, rigidly maintained tempo and evenly stressed beats. If you see this as a melancholy, even tragic, piece, you’ll have to look elsewhere – to the Cohen Trio, likewise on period instruments (Harmonia Mundi), or the Beaux Arts (Philips). By now you’ll have guessed that Trio 1790 mistrusts sentiment in Haydn’s adagios: and I hear little tenderness or delicacy of colour in the rhapsodic slow movements of Nos 25 and 26.
More surprisingly, perhaps, the Gypsy Rondo itself is distinctly muted, with none of the dangerous flamboyance and abandon caught by the Cohen Trio, the Vienna Piano Trio (Nimbus) or Trio Fontenay (Teldec). Any of these recordings should give richer rewards than this new disc, while the classic Beaux Arts recordings of the complete trios, available on a budget-priced nine-CD set, remain one of the catalogue’s true bargains. Richard Wigmore