Beethoven: Piano Trios – in E flat major, Op 1 No 1; in B flat major, Op 97 (Archduke)

Reviewed on Wed 29 Apr, 2015

This first volume of Audite’s survey of Beethoven’s piano trios embraces the first (from Opus 1, in fact) and last. The early work is ambitious and full of character, combining the sparkle and wit of Haydn with Beethoven’s confident and pugnacious manner, moderated for contrast and with an especially elegant slow movement and dashing finale. Of course, he went on to even greater things, but what a way to announce oneself as a major talent. Within this genre, Beethoven’s creative genius climaxes with the expansive Archduke, time-taken and with majestic sangfroid, and a deeply eloquent slow movement. The Swiss Piano Trio’s accounts are virtuous, perfectly poised and well-balanced, if perhaps not as searching as other ensembles. The scherzo of the Archduke is a particular joy though (and includes a full complement of repeats, not always the case). The recording is immediate and clear, the three musicians enjoying equal billing.
–Colin Anderson