The piano trios on this disc by the Seraphim Trio offer a fascinating insight into how German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) – who is deemed to be the master of this form – developed the piano trio from being a chamber music genre steeped in the style of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn with three movements, into a majestic form with a full four movements in the style of a full symphonic composition.
The Seraphim Trio comprises Helen Ayres (former member of Melbourne Symphony) on violin, Anna Goldsworthy (an award-winning pianist, writer and festival director) on piano and Tim Nankervis (a member of the Sydney Symphony) on cello.
The group have performed extensively throughout Australia and are regulars at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival and the Adelaide Festival of the Arts.
They are each highly accomplished performers in their own right, and this presentation of Beethoven’s piano trios is highly polished and should be ranked among the best recordings of these works.
The Op. 1 No. 2 comes from a 23-year-old Beethoven and shows the influence of Haydn, who taught Beethoven, especially in the wit of the final movement.
The expressive slow movement is unusually mature for such a young composer, although is probably not surprising given what an intense character Beethoven was. The three instruments balance beautifully in a very poised performance by the Seraphim Trio.
The second piano trio featured here is in D Major, Op. 70 No. and is known as the ‘Ghost’. It has been conjected over the years that the ghost represented was Hamlet or Macbeth, but Beethoven never claimed a particular ghost.
A lively opening signals that this trio has many depths to come and is much more Romantic in style, with full and lush and interwoven lines. The listener is not disappointed as this is a well-crafted work.
The final trio on this disc dates from 1979 and was originally composed for clarinet, cello and piano.
Known as the ‘street hit’ trio, the last movement is a wonderful set of variations on Joseph Weigl’s song Pria ch’io l’impegno: ‘Before I go to work I must have something to eat.’ Beethoven developed the variation form very comprehensively later in his life.
This trio achieves a wonderful balance between the three voices and lively phrasing and very elegant piano playing are heard in the first movement.
The Adagio opens with a very expressive cello solo which is soon passed onto the violin.
Beautifully shaped phrases with carefully thought out architecture make it a pleasure to listen to. The final movement is very satisfying, and a great end to what was a superb disc.
Meldi Arkinstall, CD=Music Reviewer, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016