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Hyperion Records

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Portrait of Beethoven, Vienna (c1804) by Willibrord Joseph Mähler (1778-1860)
AKG London
Track(s) taken from CDA67327
Recording details: October 2001
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 2003
Total duration: 25 minutes 53 seconds

'A recording that immediately, from the first impetuous bars of Op 70 No 1, feels just right' (Gramophone)

'For an exhilarating sense of live music-making, of players constantly challenging and coaxing each other to new insights, these irresistible performances make this one of the discs of the year' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This new Florestan account of the two Op. 70 trios is outstanding in every way. The playing is quite gripping and masterly, and the sound is vivid and well balanced. These are arguably the most satisfying accounts in the catalogue, and certainly the best we have had in recent years' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'This is playing of quite extraordinary sensitivity and depth. I can hardly wait until the next volume' (The Independent)

'This is a highly auspicious beginning to the Florestans’ survey of the Beethoven piano trios … Totally convincing' (The Guardian)

'should grab even the most casual listener … a real winner' (The Times)

'Hugely enjoyable' (The Sunday Times)

'Susan Tomes' controlled, musical piano playing is a constant source of delight’ (The Strad)

'The Florestan Trio plays them with great immediacy and vigour; everything is beautifully balanced and argued out' (Classic FM Magazine)

'I can’t say I have ever heard better' (Fanfare, USA)

'dash, energy, exuberance, tempered by an acute awareness of each other … a highly enjoyable disc' (Pianist)

'Hyperion’s ability to pick outstanding musicians from the universal crop has rarely been better directed than in the case of the Florestan Trio' (Music Week)

'no current trio conveys such a spontaneous sense of enthusiasm and discovery as The Florestan … The performers bounce ideas off one another, stimulating and persuading each to reveal fresh insights and creating a wonderful sense of live music making. With very good engineering this now has to be the first choice among recordings of these works' (Hi-Fi Plus)

'The Florestan embark on the complete Beethoven piano trios, the first release pointing to a cycle that is going to be very special. The playing is unfailingly perceptive and full of musical insights … However many times you have these works in your collection, this is an essential purchase' (Yorkshire Post)

'There’s such unanimity of purpose here, three minds united in their common musical goal, and yet able to realise it without surrendering their individual character … buy this now, and wait impatiently for Beethoven volume 2' (bbc.co.uk)

Piano Trio in D major 'Ghost', Op 70 No 1
composer
September 1808; first performed chez the dedicatee, Countess Marie von Erdödy, on 10 December 1801

Presto  [7'28]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In the Op 1 trios Beethoven had already given the two string instruments more of the limelight than they had enjoyed in the keyboard-dominated trios of Mozart and Haydn. But with the Op 70 trios their emancipation is complete. The three instruments now discourse as equals in kaleidoscopically varied textures, rich in the free contrapuntal interplay that is one of the glories of the Viennese classical style. In the D major, the only one of Beethoven’s mature piano trios in three movements, the explosive unison opening is immediately countered by a dissonant, disorientating F natural high in the cello’s plangent tenor register; the cello then slips back into D major with a beseeching lyrical melody that passes in turn to violin and piano. This opening at once establishes the highly charged, volatile nature of a movement that trades on abrupt contrasts of texture and dynamics and, in the development, some of the composer’s most rugged, rebarbative imitative writing. Inevitably in Beethoven, the flatward pull of the ‘wrong note’ F natural has long-term structural consequences, both in the recapitulation, where it initiates a poetic expansion of the beseeching cello melody in a remote-sounding B flat major, and in the finale.

The D minor ‘Largo assai ed espressivo’ which spawned the work’s nickname ‘Ghost Trio’ is the slowest slow movement in all Beethoven, and the most impressionistic. The weirdly fragmented thematic material, unstable harmonies and sombre, quasi-orchestral textures, with eerie tremolos in the bowels of the keyboard, combine to produce music of extraordinary tension and Gothic gloom. And it is no surprise to discover that Beethoven noted down the brooding opening theme among sketches for the Witches’ music in a projected Macbeth opera. The finale restores us to a world of convivial normality, with its supple, gracious themes and crystalline textures. There is whimsical humour, too, in the main theme’s hesitations and harmonic feints, deliciously amplified in the coda, while the implications of the first movement’s stray F natural make themselves felt in the brusque or ruminative shifts to distant flat keys.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2003

Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio' (CDS44471/4)
Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio
MP3 £20.00FLAC £20.00ALAC £20.00Buy by post £22.00 CDS44471/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
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