Beethoven Piano Trios Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

At last...after the Brahms, Dvorák, Schubert and Schumann Piano Trios, the Florestans...

Andrew McGregor 2003

At last...after the Brahms, Dvorák, Schubert and Schumann Piano Trios, the Florestans finally take a deep breath, sit down together and tackle Beethoven's legacy. And yes, we're to have them all: 'The Complete Music for Piano Trio 1' this tells us reassuringly on the cover.

From the triumphant opening fanfare of the Ghost Trio you know it's been worth the wait. 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. Violinist Anthony Marwood seems incapable of playing a sourly tuned note, and in the opening of Beethoven's ghostly Largo he's matched perfectly by cellist Richard Lester in the chilly opening phrases, drained of colour until they slowly add vibrato and warmth.

Susan Tomes is the core of the trio, if not the key to it; perfectly balanced with the two string players, never overcrowding them or shouting them down. Even when she's at her busiest, say at the start of the Ghost's Finale, Tomes never drowns the other voices, and her beautifully articulated runs are exact but effervescent, fizzing with life and energy.

As in the Florestans' earlier recordings there's no distortion, no ugly bulges or individual eccentricities to learn to tolerate - everything has the ring of truth about it, and it's easy to feel that you're hearing the authentic voice of the composer throughout, and not the voices of the interpreters. The recording's superb, analytical but warm with the instruments close enough, yet in a nicely captured acoustic.

If what I've described has you worrying that these performances might be characterless, then banish the thought - there's character in spades, but in performances you really could play every day without tiring of the individual personalities at work (as is sometimes the case with the so-called power-trios of the past).

For quite a while it's been difficult to recommend the core piano trio repertoire on record without having recourse to the Beaux Arts Trio, or a venerable classic such as Stern-Rose-Istomin. The Florestans are changing that with this sequence of Hyperion recordings; buy this now, and wait impatiently for Beethoven Volume 2.

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