Morgenstern Trio

Beethoven: Piano Trio, Op. 70/1; Brahms: Piano Trio, Op. 87

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Always one to push the envelope in terms of what was expected from a given genre, the advances he made in the piano trio were no different. Though his Op. 1 were much in the traditional four-movement format of his predecessors, the great D major Trio of Op. 70/1 -- the so-called "Ghost" Trio -- abandoned this custom in favor of a three-movement work with a sublimely slow middle movement that exceeds the length of either outer movement. Beethoven also continued to push the independence of the three musicians rather than making the strings subservient to the piano. By contrast, Brahms' Second Piano Trio, Op. 87, sticks with the traditional four-movement structure and could be said to be less innovative than his first trio that came almost three decades earlier. Op. 87 is nonetheless a brilliant part of the standard repertoire. Performing these two beloved trios is the German-based Morgenstern Trio. Established in 2005, the young ensemble has a lot to offer, including a well-blended sound, close attention to detail, generally solid intonation, and tight-knit ensemble playing. Its ability to maintain focus and intensity in the central "Ghost" movement of the Beethoven is admirable. They also provide a nice contrast in color and texture between Beethoven and Brahms. Morgenstern seems to shy away from faster tempos, though, and the Prestos from both trios are markedly stodgy. The group's first album together is still a solid contribution, to be sure, and is a reasonable choice for listeners looking for a first recording of these works. The English translation of the liner notes is poor.

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