Patrick Cohen / Christophe Coin / Erich Höbarth / Wolfgang Meyer

Beethoven: Trio in Bf WoO39; Trio in Bf Op11

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Beethoven's first set of published compositions was a group of three piano trios, the third of which (heard on this album) already showed the young composer to be a revolutionary, outside-the-box thinker. Also on the program is the much safer, more Haydn-esque Op. 11 Trio originally composed for clarinet, piano, and cello, and the rarely heard, very early single piano trio movement of WoO 39, posthumously published as Op. 154. To the benefit of listeners, the three works are performed on fortepiano by Patrick Cohen. The sound quality of this instrument is captured quite nicely, giving it more depth and substance than is often the case. Balance between the three instruments is also nicely executed, giving a sense of equal partnership between the parts. What's disturbingly lacking, though, are clear differences between the tempo selection of various movements. The first movement of the C minor Trio, for example, is marked Allegro con brio. This reading is anything but; it is extremely conservative to the point of being stodgy, a regrettable decision that robs the movement of all of the vitality and impact it can have at more forward-moving tempos. The slower tempo in the first movement sets up a lack of contrast between it and the middle movements, resulting in a performance that is technically brilliant and stylistically sound, but musically rather dull.

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