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on 21 May 2002
Few, except serious string players, know Beethoven's string trios,and so miss out on what is historically comparable to Napoleon's meteoric conquest of Egypt and the unearthing of hidden treasures. These are indeed prophetic works of genius by the young Haydn pupil who wanted to make a splash in Vienna. But they are distinctly charming and powerful, from the sentimental divertimento of Op. 3 to the innovative set of three in Opus 9. I don't think even today commentators realize the comet-like impact on the Vienna musical horizon that Op. 9 reveals.The C Minor Trio, No. 3, is duly admired for its almost mystical C minor association with Beethoven, but nothing like the G Major Trio, No 1, had ever been written, neither by Mozart nor Haydn. The part-writing is unexcelled. (The Finale, a totally unexpected Viennese fiddle hoedown, would obviously infect Prokofiev and Stravinsky.)No. 2, in D, is a sun-lit, love-embued sonnet worthy of Shakespeare. With an energy and poetic inventiveness these trios stand out brilliantly against the later more conventional Op. 18 quartets and clearly point to the mighty Op. 59 quartets, which appear from the Trios point of view a logical expansion, like furnishing a great hall already built. In a word, they are Beethoven's blueprint for all the orchestral and quartet architecture that was to come. Beethoven grasped perfectly the unfulfilled destiny of Mozart.It was music of the future and, amazingly,carries with it in sublime lyricism, dramatic expression and mature virility the complete box of tricks used by Verdi and all the 19th century panoramists. These trios, including the Op. 8 Serenade, provide the true seeds of all that is intelligent and enjoyable in Romanticism.
This Beethoven confidence is brilliantly and energetically portrayed in this EMI CD, recorded at a live series of concerts at New York's 92nd St "Y" (in 1989)and provides a collector's treasure with the zestiest ensemble playing by Perlman, Zukerman and Harrell. The recording is full-bodied and resonant without echoes (or coughing). Natch, the ecstatic applause is retained.
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