Although when most listeners think of the Beethoven piano trios, we think of the more common instrumentation of piano, violin, and piano. Indeed, this was the configuration Beethoven turned to most often and it is these trios that are most commonly performed and recorded today. Not to be forgotten or overlooked, however, are the trios for piano, clarinet, and cello. This Naxos album features the Op. 38 Trio -- Beethoven's own transcription of his Op. 20 Septet -- and the Op. 11 "Gassenhauer" Trio. The transcription of the septet is arguably more successful than the original, and in the right hands is an entirely engaging, charming composition. It should be noted that the album's back cover incorrectly states that the second movement Adagio of Op. 11 is based on the Op. 49/2 Piano Sonata; it is in fact the third movement of Op. 38 that bares this distinction, as correctly mentioned in the liner notes.
Performing these all-too-often overlooked works is a gifted, well-chosen ensemble made up of clarinetist Ib Hausmann, cellist Maria Kliegel, and pianist Nina Tichman. The trio shares an obvious vision of these works, producing a unified, confident performance. Sound quality and balance are remarkably clear and transparent while still warm and inviting. Articulation across the ensemble is tight and precise. Tichman's playing is especially luminous, though her sound never covers her collaborators. Going along with Naxos' other installments of the Beethoven piano trios, this installment is appropriate for collectors and first-time listeners alike.