Who could be more predestined for Ludwig van Beethoven's piano trios than the Vienna Piano Trio? After a brilliant prelude with the Trios op. 70, the top Viennese ensemble newly cast with cellist Clemens Hagen now delivers the great and splendid "Archduke Trio" op. 97, on this SACD, surprisingly appropriate combined with the standout C minor Trio from op. 1, whose forward-looking qualities already drew Joseph Haydn's attention.
And with a beginning that must have immediately irritated listeners of those times: is that still the introduction or already the theme? Beethoven could have cared less about the convention; the master of motivic elaboration also avails himself of what appears to be material of no great importance and in this way lends each and every note a significance that perhaps will never be deciphered in full. The fact that the trio in Beethoven’s “destiny key” of C minor then also ends in very tender pianissimo, not with a rousing and triumphant stretta, makes this work of his youth really something out of the ordinary.
Beethoven dedicated the Trio op. 97 to his patron and protector Archduke Rudolph of Austria, who was an outstanding pianist in his own right and probably quite often played this large-format work in a private setting. The Archduke was very demanding, and the structure is correspondingly complex – such as, for example, the very unique form of the scherzo, in which the contrasting trio is interwoven with the main part of the scherzo with fine art. The variations in the third movement undergo increasingly intricate development, until in the coda a new motif leads into the very free concluding rondo.
The Vienna Piano Trio brings out all these special qualities and does so in inimitable style. From the very start the unison beginning unfolds a suggestive effect on this finely balanced Super Audio CD. In this threedimensional format the balanced sound picture develops its full magnificence. His Imperial Majesty certainly would have been impressed!