WORKS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2: in E, Hob XV:28; in E flat, Hob XV:29 & XV:30; in E flat minor, Hob XV:31
PERFORMER: The Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67757
There seems to be a lot of music in the key of E flat in this second volume of The Florestan Trio’s recordings of the Haydn Trios, which focuses on four works composed in London during the mid-1790s.
Yet the players avoid any possibility of tonal monotony by maximising the variety of texture, colour and dynamics in their performances, and by relishing the degree to which Haydn continually challenges his listeners with unexpected turns of phrase and audacious modulations.
Although playing on modern instruments, the Florestans respect the performing conventions of late 18th-century music, using only a discreet level of vibrato and ensuring that there is sufficient a lightness and transparency in the piano to allow for the cello part to come through the texture. At the same time, these are hardly small-scale performances.
The first movement of HobXV:30 is presented as a truly expansive Allegro moderato with bold dramatic gestures that project the work as almost Beethovenian in character, and in the B major section of the first movement of HobXV:31, violinist Anthony Marwood shapes the expressive melody with almost Schubertian warmth.
Likewise, the slow march-like tempo adopted for the Poco allegretto first movement of HobXV:29 gives the music much greater weight and portentousness than in other performances I have heard.
Elsewhere, however, I wonder whether the players could have offered a more unbuttoned and exuberant approach, particularly to some of the Finales. But despite this caveat, these warmly recorded performances offer plenty of musical insight and deserve a positive recommendation. Erik Levi