Beethoven

BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber -

Pi­ano Trio in B flat, Op. 11 (Gassen­hauer);

Clar­inet Trio, Op. 38

Eric Le Sage (pi­ano), Paul Meyer (clar­inet), Clau­dio Bo­hórquez (cello) Al­pha Classics AL­PHA 405 58:07 mins You can’t have too many recorded ver­sions of Beethoven’s core cre­ations, but there are times when it feels as though we have enough. This may ex­plain the cur­rent vogue for ex­hum­ing his more pe­riph­eral works: Pavel Kolesnikov’s Hype­r­ion record­ing of some early pi­ano pieces with­out opus numbers, for ex­am­ple, and now these trios for pi­ano, clar­inet, and cello. The new pop­u­lar­ity of wood­wind in­stru­ments may have stim­u­lated the com­po­si­tion of Op. 11 in 1797; the re­sult­ing com­bi­na­tion may be un­usual, but it works.

Op. 11 has the brac­ing spare­ness and raw mus­cu­lar en­ergy of the early pi­ano sonatas, and its first move­ment trades in the shock value of un­ex­pected key changes. The theme of the Ada­gio, in­tro­duced by the cello con espres­sione, is drawn from the min­uet of the pi­ano sonata Op. 49 No. 2 which had been com­posed the pre­vi­ous year; with its ma­jes­tic re­serve, this is a fine ex­am­ple of the young Beethoven’s mastery of the lyri­cal slow-move­ment form. The trio’s nick­name ‘Gassen­hauer’ refers to the fi­nale, whose theme was taken from a pop­u­lar song to be heard in the streets (‘Gassen’); here the song gives rise to some el­e­gantly kalei­do­scopic vari­a­tions.

The theme of that same Op. 49 min­uet also crops up in the Op. 38 trio, but the vari­a­tions in this later work are based on a Rhine boat­men’s song. At times one misses the ef­fects of the Septet of which this work is an ar­range­ment: the pi­ano can’t repli­cate the pro­found ten­der­ness of the strings in the Ada­gio, nor can the cello match the mellow grace of the horn in the fi­nal An­dante. But these play­ers de­liver a cor­us­cat­ing per­for­mance, and very suc­cess­fully present this hack­neyed work – of which Beethoven him­self grew tired – in a new light. Michael Church PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★

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