Trio Carlo Van Neste

Beethoven: Piano Trio Op. 70 No. 1 Ghost; Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 Op. 8

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Although Beethoven did not himself assign the title "Ghost" to his Op. 70/1 Piano Trio, the name has been inextricably linked with the composition for some two centuries. The name comes from the trio's otherworldly central movement, possessing one of the slowest pulses in all of the standard repertoire. The outer movements contrast sharply; both are brisk, lively affairs. Begun a half-century later, Brahms' B major Trio does not have an added moniker like Beethoven's "Ghost," but it does have in common a central slow movement that emphasizes stillness and exemplary control over pulse. From the beginning of the Beethoven Trio on its Pavane Records album, the Trio Carlo Van Neste greets listeners with an optimistic, fervent, and crisp unison. Other moments -- such as the beautiful, almost sensual cello solo at the opening of the Brahms trio -- give listeners further hope that this may indeed be an exceptional recording. The interpretations are gratifying and moving yet emotionally restrained; the technical abilities provide generally solid intonation, clean shifts, and nicely matched articulation. The downfall of the disc, however, lies in its less-than-ideal balance and recorded sound quality. When playing in unison, or in thinly scored sections, every note is quite clear and distinct. As parts diverge, volume increases, and the scoring becomes thicker, the clarity of individual parts quickly diminishes and overall balance becomes dominated by the piano's left hand.

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