This well recorded disc made in 2001 presents a most encouraging start to the projected cycle of the Beethoven trios. The Florestan Trio have established themselves firmly at the vanguard of modern performing trios and already have a string of notable recorded triumphs to their name and this shows all the signs of continuing that sequence of winners.
These two trios were written during Beethoven's 'middle' period just after the Pastorale symphony (no. 6). They were written very quickly in just one month after a lapse of just over ten years since the first series of trios. In that time he had developed his thinking on the subject considerably and with these two new trios there is now a complete integration of the three instruments. The previously dominating role of the keyboard as in the Haydn and Mozart predecessors has now vanished.
The apparent ease of composition, bearing in mind the speed, is reflected in the relaxed nature of the works. There are, of course, interesting facets to the compositions these works such as the three movement form of the Ghost trio, not to mention its 'ghostly' slow movement after which the trio takes its name. The following trio eschews the title of minuet in the third movement although to all intents and purposes that is what it is. Nevertheless this is a further distancing from earlier models.
The Florestan's are fully aware of every detail of these works and their perfectly empathy with each other and to the music enables the performances to flow with complete ease. There is no suggestion of these being studio recordings although, of course, they are. One point worth mentioning is their suggestion that the second trio shares some constructional and key relationship features with Haydn's symphony 103, the Drumroll, and that this trio might be seen as something of a veiled tribute to Haydn, now something of an elderly statesman. This is more fully explained in the accompanying notes.
Although this review has been written as if the disc has been freshly bought, readers may be interested to know that it has been a valued part of my collection for the last ten years along with every other disc this, now ceased, trio has ever made. The current reviews being written are thus a retrospective series written as CDs are being played again.
I would therefore suggest that this disc, along with the others in the series, is likely to be an invaluable addition to any collection and very much worth while considering as a purchase.
This is Beethoven playing that has everything. The opening movement of the Ghost Trio, named because of the character of its slow movement, seems to anticipate Schumann, while its pair in the Op. 70 set, much less known, suggests in its 3rd movement where so much of Schubert came from. Both works are full of surprises, an irrepressible lyrical impulse and rushes of emotion underpinned by a superb sense of solidity. You feel these works are at the heart of the whole musical endeavour. The brio of the writing seems in many ways to hark back to Beethoven's youth, there is such tunefulness, such zest for living. It feels as if Beethoven felt he could be more playful and skittish, perhaps, than in the piano sonatas or quartets of the middle period. A short Allegretto from 1812 rounds off the disc, played brilliantly by the ever-reliable Florestan Trio.