HAYDN: 9 Piano Trios – Piano Trio in F, Hob. XV:2; Piano Trio in B flat, Hob. XV:8; Piano Trio in F, Hob. XV:6; Piano Trio in G, Hob. XV:5; Piano Trio in E flat, Hob. XV:10; Piano Trio in D, Hob. XV:7; Piano Trio in A, Hob. XV:9; Piano Trio in E minor, Hob. XV:12; Piano Trio in E flat, Hob. XV:11 – Beaux Arts Trio – PentaTone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 180 -1 (2 discs) 63:36, 59:34 ***** [Distr. by Naxos]:

Haydn’s piano trios number 45 in total. Trios became increasingly popular in the late eighteenth century and often appeared in print as “accompanied sonatas”, the earlier ones as “Partitas” or “Divertimentos”, music for a pianist with an accompanying violin and ‘cello in the main. These accompanied sonatas have largely fallen off the radar of concert performances, Haydn’s later Piano Trios being the notable exception due to their palpably higher quality, the violin and cello not doubling the piano part.

The first 17 are somewhat neglected early trios, the collection on these discs including just the one, Hob. XV:2, opening the programme and this is chronologically No.17, dating from around 1770. The remaining ones, again using H.C. Robbins Landon’s chronological numbering, are Nos.18 to 25, and were written between 1784 and 1788 when Haydn was in his fifties. The writing for the cello became more adventurous in the trios here, becoming more than basso continuo from No. 22 onwards.

The Beaux Arts Trio recordings of the Piano Trios were pioneering and have survived in the catalogue since their first releases. The wealth of experience these musicians bring to these pieces tells, their warmth, humour and drama are brought out with enormous skill. Menahem Pressler, the longest serving of the trio, has superb keyboard technique and his passage work is so delightful. Isidore Cohen and Bernard Greenhouse were violinist and ‘cellist for quite some time, Cohen’s evident sense of humour and Greenhouse’s rich sounds always interesting to hear. The minuets really do dance, the prestos and vivaces are simply virtuosic.

PentaTone’s remastering for SACD shows what fine recordings these always were; the sound is quite simply beautiful, a credit to the Philips engineers who recorded these musicians at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam in May, 1976 in four channels. This two disc set, priced as for a single, comes at bargain price, and has given me enormous pleasure over the last few weeks.

— Peter Joelson