Beethoven: Piano Trios, Vol. 2: Op. 1 Nos 1 & 2

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Trios, Vol. 2: Op. 1 Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Xyrion Trio
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.557724
Following its impressive recording of the two works Op. 70, this second instalment in the Xyrion Trio’s survey of Beethoven’s complete output for piano trio is much more variable in quality. The players seem to be most at home in the more brilliant side of early Beethoven, and they respond well to the wit and sparkle of the first of the Op. 1 trios. Their performance of the ‘presto’ finale to its G major companion-piece is dazzling, too, but there’s more depth to its slow introduction than they find, while the radiant slow movement – the most beautiful piece of its kind among Beethoven’s early trios – cries out for greater lyricism and warmth. So, too, does the miniatureAllegretto in B flat, WoO39, which Beethoven composed in the wake of his Archduke Trio in the same key, for his ‘little friend’ the ten-year-old Maximiliane Brentano, to encourage her to play the piano. He even helpfully wrote in the fingerings for her – an affectionate gesture that’s perhaps explained by the fact that her mother, Antonie, is thought to have been the composer’s ‘immortal beloved’. Alas, the Xyrion Trio’s impatient performance is wholly lacking in gracefulness and charm, and it’s not helped by the brittle acoustic in which these recordings have been made. As an inexpensive means of getting to know Beethoven’s first two piano trios this disc may have its merits, but there are considerably greater rewards to be had from the elegantly-shaped and warmly recorded accounts by the Kalichstein/Laredo/Robinson Trio.