This disc celebrates a period of fierce creativity in Haydn’s output, 1784-1792, when his capacity for chamber music inventiveness had begun to peak. What strikes listeners of today is the joy in the unexpected, whether by way of harmony or instrumental alignments. A mischievous, unruly spirit delights and dazzles us. While Jutta Ernst has plenty of exercise at the keyboard, violinist Anne Katharina Schreiber wends her wiry way through the Tempo di Menuetto theme and variations second movement of the F Major Trio. The A-flat Trio is the latest (1792), rife with what Strunk calls the “circuitous routes” of harmonic diversity and detours. Here, cellist Kristin von der Goltz makes her presence better known. A four-note riff, shades of Beethoven, rescues the first movement from motivic stasis. After a solemn E Major Adagio, Haydn tosses off one of his rondo-sonata hybrids that whips by, leaving only musical fairy-dust.
Major and minor variations fluctuate in kaleidoscopic invention in the C Minor Trio, whose first movement is a rather stunning theme and variations in which the keyboard part excels, much in the Beethoven mold. The Allegro spiritoso has a galant, virtuosic affect, similar in feeling to some of Mozart’s Paris sonatas. As I suspected from the key signature of E Minor, the 1789 piece bears a singular sturm und drang affect. Eccentric phrase lengths and bursts of counterpoint make for compelling listening. The E Major siciliano ushers in what one commentator calls “rococo perfume.” While there may be some doubt as to the “authenticity” of the G Major (1784) Trio, its vibrant facility is real enough. False cadences, sly modulations, parodies of Italian trio-sonata style, all mark the devilish wit of a master craftsman, into whose secret, alchemical book we have been privileged to peer.
— Gary Lemco