Gyorgy Eder / Attila Falvay / János Fehérvári

Beethoven: String Trios

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Beethoven's String Trios of Op. 9, composed in 1797 and 1798 for an Irish patron who had given him a horse (a neglected aspect of Beethoven biographical studies), are among the least-often performed of his mature works. It's true that they don't announce the imposing spaces of the Op. 18 string quartets that would follow in a couple of years, but they're quite surprising among the works he composed around this time in their seriousness and scope. They are among his first works to definitively depart from Haydn's and Mozart's examples; unlike the string trios by those composers Beethoven lays out full-scale four-movement structures in each trio, with his new and characteristic scherzo in third position in two of them. They're tightly constructed, with pretty much equal roles played by the instruments, and they reward small groups who can combine a warm Central European with precise ensemble as the three members of Hungary's Kodály Quartet do here. The group catches the rough humor of early Beethoven, which is a bit more submerged here than in some other works, but is nevertheless crucial. Sample the proffered but then withdrawn consolation of the calm answer to the opening grim phrase in the Scherzo of the String Trio in C minor, Op. 9/3 (track 11). Strong sound from a small Hungarian concert hall is another plus in a recording that belongs on the shelves or hard drives of those with good collections of Beethoven chamber music. Notes by Naxos stalwart Keith Anderson are in English only.

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