WORKS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2: Hob. XV:11-14
PERFORMER: Trio 1790
CATALOGUE NO: 999 467-2
Haydn’s second group of three piano trios, composed in 1789, some five years after his first set (frankly to make some money out of the up-and-coming Artaria Publishing Company), and their follow-up, Hob. XV:14, make a neat second instalment of Trio 1790’s ongoing project to record the entire corpus on period instruments. And provided one can erase memories of the Beaux Arts’ award-winning traversal of the same repertoire – albeit on modern instruments – and one can adjust to the rawer sound quality, the German newcomers present a viable, if uneven, alternative in music not exactly over-represented in the catalogue.
In XV:11-13, the burden of the musical argument is still carried by the keyboard, and Harald Hoeren, playing a modern copy of a fortepiano almost exactly contemporary with the trios themselves, does well to make up for his instrument’s lack of dynamic range and expressive nuance through crisp articulation and a steady but not entirely inflexible rhythmic momentum. High points here are the alluring pizzicato invention of the E minor’s central Andante, and the startling pauses in the presto rondo finale of the C minor.
Violin and cello are more prominent in the weighty A flat Trio, nearly half an hour long; indeed, their antiphonal exchanges with the fortepiano prove an enduring strength and make up for the marked lack of wit in these readings as a whole. If you like your Haydn plain and unvarnished, there’s much to admire here; but for all-round humanity the Beaux Arts players continue to lead the field. Antony Bye