Beethoven: Piano Trio
By Matt F
Violinst Isabelle Faust, pianist Alexander Melnikov and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras are to Harmonia Mundi what Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are to the Seahawks; top players in really top form, even through tough ups and downs, on what remains one of the most consistently great labels. Each of them have shown prowess in their own field as a soloist; Faust for her Bach and Brahms, Melnikov for his interpretations of Russian repertoire and Queyras whose mastered everything from Vivaldi to Boulez (Faust and Melnikov have teamed up before, most notably for Brahms’ Horn Trio [Harmonia Mundi 901981] which is truly one of my desert island discs.
Usually I prefer a dedicated chamber ensemble when tackling chamber music. Collecting accomplished soloists usually results in musicians taking turns showboating, but here any trace of virtuoso ego is erased and in it’s place is three musicians simply excited by the music at hand. I know that Beethoven’s string quartets garner him more fame and I can’t dispute that his contributions aren’t astounding, but at the end of the day his Piano Trios are simply more enjoyable to listen to. Perhaps because Beethoven himself played the role of pianist in many of them (he stopped after No. 7 ‘Archduke’ featured on this disc, which in the first movement has such a delightful little pizzicato section I just can’t get over it) and saved some of his best material for himself. Harmonia Mundi’s recording is warm and crisp, and easily tops my go-to disc for Beethoven’s piano trios.