Beethoven’s 1804 Triple Concerto remains the oddity among his great concerted works, a kind of throwback to the Baroque concerto grosso format, using a piano trio as the concertino. Beethoven solved the textural intricacies of such a large concept by assigning the cello the lead entries in every thematic statement, to be followed invariably by the violin and piano. The opening Allegro movement is quite long and expansive; the second movement Largo connects immediately to a cleverly wrought, earthy polonaise. Critics have complained that the keyboard writing is somewhat facile for Beethoven, but the part has its own verve and brilliance. Bronfman certainly sparkles in the transparent part; and the string writing, already granted more polish and bravura, finds scintillating realization with Mork and Shaham. Zinman has opted for quicker Beethoven tempos ever since he re-edited the Beethoven oeuvre according to the composer’s original metronome markings for the symphonies and Violin Concerto (with Sergiu Luca). Recorded in Zurich 20-21 October 2004, the performance has a beautifully clean resonance, the cello simply sailing into the ionosphere. A happy performance of an exuberant work, rife with the confidence of a musical master.
Beethoven’s 1799 Septet, as opposed to its oddly-paired Concerto, remains one of his most popular works; even its premier was marked by success. In six frisky movements, the piece provides a perfect bridge from the world of Mozart cassations and divertimenti to the more colossal ethos of Beethoven’s symphonic style. The blood starts pumping from the outset, caught up as we are between Shaham’s silky violin and Dangel’s throbbing doublebass. The winds and horn complete the out-of-doors ambiance with sinewy energy. The lovely Adagio cantabile, the perky Minuetto (used in the Sonatina, Op. 49), the Andante con variazioni, Scherzo and final Andante all proceed with a mock-martial air which bespeaks Beethoven’s light hand at humor as well as pathos. Michel Rouilly’s plangent viola makes several nice points in the Andante, as do Michael Reid’s clarinet and Jakob Hefti’s French horn. An affectionate rendering of a Beethoven staple by a well-coordinated, talented cast of musicians.