Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

James H. North
Fanfare, May 2009

These are elegant, suave performances of some of Haydn’s loveliest music. The piano trios lack the backbone and structure of his symphonies and string quartets, and that difference is emphasized here, for better and for worse: we are enveloped by charm and beauty, but at a cost in spirit and élan. Is this making the most of the music’s inherent qualities, or does it short-change us by moving even farther from Haydn’s essential character? Each of us must decide this for her or himself. I find that individual movements can be mesmerizing—the long opening Andante of the E♭ Trio, Hob XV:31, is gorgeous beyond words—but seldom is an entire trio as satisfying. The “complete set” phenomenon comes into play here: each trio should be heard by itself, in isolation, but the reviewer’s duty is to hear everything, and I found myself liking these performances more and more as I proceeded through them over the course of a few days. Each of these discs mixes early, middle, and late trios, but the Eisenstadt does not distinguish each era as clearly as have some other (usually period-instrument) performances. For the record, the 1760 Trios are Hob XV: 1 and 3441; the 1780s works are Hob XV:5–17; the so-called “London” Trios of the mid 1790s are Hob XV:18–32 (No. 30 was written after he returned to Vienna).

The playing by all (Harald Kosik, piano; Verena Stourzh, violin; Hannes Gradwohl, cello) is expert and effortless. Kosik’s Steinway D is warm and brilliant, but he holds it within reasonable 18th-century bounds. The overall results are similar to those of the Beaux Arts Trio, although the Eisenstadt usually chooses more relaxed tempos for Allegros (their Vivaces and Prestos are fully up to pace); both groups ignore a repeat here and there, which may be a matter of the scores they follow. The apparent ease of these performances may contribute to the sense that a few movements succumb to routine, as the pearly tones roll along. The (studio) recordings, made during the annual Haydn Festspiele Eisentstadt from 1998 to 2007 in the now familiar Haydnsaal of Schloss Esterházy, reflect that hall’s lovely acoustic, including its excess reverberance, which is at times too much for the piano. Nevertheless, the instruments have a more distinct presence than those in the admirable 1970s Philips recordings of the Beaux Arts. That group put 43 trios (in as close to chronological order as was then known) on nine CDs. Some have fallen victim to the authenticity mavens; the Eisenstadt plays 39 trios on these eight CDs…Phoenix Edition includes a generous 68-page booklet that discusses each and every trio in some detail, all in German, English, and French.

Despite the Eisenstadt’s occasional lack of élan, I am captured by the charm and friendliness of its performances. If you are looking for a modern-instrument set of Haydn piano trios, I recommend this one, which may be found on the Internet for about four dollars a disc.

Edith Eisler
Strings Magazine, April 2009

The 39 piano trios recorded on this eight CD set are a substantial part of [Haydn’s] voluminous chamber music.

The diversity of form, texture, character, and expression is extraordinary. These works are full of surprises, like deceptive cadences and recapitulations that are really second developments. The modulations are pure magic, sometimes gradual, sometimes sudden with a leap into a new, wildly remote key after a long pause.

The performances on this recording are splendid in every way: texturally clear, tonally pure and beautiful, constantly expressive. The phrasing is elegant; repeats are meticulously observed and discreetly embellished; the passagework sparkles; the melodies sing and soar. The pianist is not only a consummate virtuoso but a sensitive partner. The players bring out Haydn’s seriousness and humor, drama and serenity, grandeur and simplicity. Read complete review

Perry Tannenbaum
American Record Guide, March 2009

Founded in 1992, the Haydn Trio has had many years to hone its interpretations of the 39 trios they put forth as canonical. Far from sounding rushed onto the market to capitalize on Papa’s 200th death-a-versary, these performances, shaped at the annual Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, sound like they’ve been held back for that purpose…I found myself making new discoveries in old favorites, hearing the interplay of the instruments more clearly…These recordings do a better job of expanding appreciation of Haydn’s trios than igniting it. Still, if you’ve never heard the trios, this new recording is a richly satisfying introduction that will not soon be eclipsed.

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, February 2009

During this Haydn bicentenary there will be many reissues and new releases, but I can think of no better way of commemorating the great man than this marvellous set of Piano Trios from the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt (HTE). They play this music as if it had been made for them and this is a set I will enjoy again and again.

The Piano Trio has always struck me as something of an odd-one-out genre: one step up from a sonata, but without the strength of a quartet or quintet. Wisely, the HTE make no attempt to justify the genre: they just revel in what is marvellously written music. The blend among these three young players is extraordinary. As with the best chamber performers one can sense them all moving to the same pulse, breathing and playing as one. They inhabit every nuance of Haydn’s drama, poignancy, pathos, humour and sheer love of life. Not once is there even a hint of a soloist going for glory; instead there is mutual support, warmth and affection for this intimate musical feast.

My only question is why this music is not better known? The trios contain all of the greatness that Haydn made evident in his larger-scale works, only on a more intimate scale. All human life is here in these works. One can find endless things to marvel at, such as the majestic opening of No. 27 in, or the strident drama of No. 19 (in G minor) or No. 12 (in E minor), both of which lead to profoundly beautiful slow movements. Or how about No. 37 in F which has a first movement full of gentle restraint which then explodes into life in its allegro second movement? There is the pregnant expectation of the first movement of No. 6 in F, or the quite majesty of No. 29 in E flat. I could go on, but there’s no need to. The riches here just go on and on.

The wonderful thing about having the complete trios together in one set is that one can not only chart the composer’s development in the genre, but also feel the phases that he moves through. The booklet notes are excellent in this regard: they explain clearly the three main periods in which Haydn wrote Piano Trios and they enable the listener to sample how he develops in each. Furthermore, nearly ever trio has its own little commentary thus guiding the listener through it, if he wants.

I’m told, by those in the know, that the Beaux Arts Trio’s survey of this music is well nigh untouchable. I can’t compare them as I haven’t heard the Beaux Arts, but one definite thing in favour of the HTE set is its bargain price which is very attractive and invites the listener to explore more readily than might otherwise have been the case.

There is little point in saying more about this marvellous release. This is delightful music, delightfully played, and anyone who loves good music should buy it for the endless pleasure it will give.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group