If you know and love Beethoven like the back of your hand, you'll have to hear this disc. For one thing, it has the composer's own rarely recorded arrangement for piano trio of his Quintet for piano and winds, Op. 16. Home chamber music performance was apparently all the rage in early nineteenth century bourgeois households, and to forestall someone else getting royalties that should be his, Beethoven occasionally turned out his own arrangements of his most popular works. In the case of Opus 16, the job was straightforward: the piano part stayed the same, the four wind parts were redistributed among the three strings, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable alternative to the ebullient original. For another thing, it has Ferdinand Ries' never recorded arrangement for piano trio of Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Sinfonia Eroica," Op. 55. While Opus 16 presented relatively few challenges, the gargantuan and quintessentially orchestral Opus 55 presents huge problems, and amazingly enough, Ries solves them all with energy and ingenuity. In these exciting performances by the Mozart piano quartet, the chamber "Eroica" sounds like its recklessly courageous self. The opening Allegro con brio, including the rarely observed exposition repeat, is huge in scale with shattering climaxes and irresistible audacity. The following Marcia funebre is immensely slow and deeply tragic, the Allegro vivace Scherzo after that a rambunctious race to double bar, and the Theme and Variations that closes the work even attains the same epic scale as all but the greatest orchestral performances. While surely not a replacement for the original Opus 16, much less the original Opus 55, these performances will be fascinating to those who know and love Beethoven.
Recorded in October 2006 in the Fürstliche Reitbahn in Bad Arolsen, Musik Dabringhaus und Grimm's digital sound is typically so warm and close it's all but real.