Here, for all piano trio aficionados, is the complete-complete oeuvre of Beethoven in that genre. This set includes not only all the opus-numbered trios, not only the “Kakadu” Variations and Variations on an Original Theme, op. 44, but also both trios without opus numbers (including the obscure Allegretto, Hess 48) and trio reductions of other works: the Second Symphony, the famous Septet, and the String Quintet, op. 4. In short, if you like Beethoven in a piano trio mode, this set is heaven for you.
Moreover, Brilliant Classics has really lucked out with Trio Élégiaque. Its members are all laureates of major international competitions: violinist Laurent Le Flécheur, pianist François Dumont, and cellist Virginie Constant. The liner notes tell us that they had “several meetings with members of the Beaux Arts Trio, Amadeus, and Alban Berg Quartets” which helped them formulate their style of playing chamber music. The result is a group very much like Beaux Arts, certainly a lot like the original Beaux Arts when they had the sweet-toned, elegant violinist Daniel Guilet heading the group. Trio Élégiaque practically oozes French elegance and charm, particularly violinist Le Flécher, whose tone and technique reminded me not only of Guilet but also of Jacques Thibaud, and pianist Dumont, whose light but rhythmically propulsive playing recalls any number of outstanding French pianists. These qualities find their way not only into the mature works, but also into the early ones. The op. 1/2 Trio that opens disc one is a perfect case in point: Their mellifluous reading of the opening Adagio practically floats on a cloud. At first, I heard this as a possible danger point for the set—I hoped they would not stay light and airy even when the music turned more dramatic—but I shouldn’t have worried. Though this trio will not erase memories of Thibaud-Cortot-Casals, they share with that legendary group a penchant for bringing more out of the music that is apparent in the printed page. True, their style leans more towards coaxing sounds out of their instruments rather than the kind of deep drama that Cortot and especially Casals were capable of, but it’s not at all bland playing. On the contrary, one stays mentally tuned in to them because their playing is so subtle—until they pull out the stops, as in the Finale of the op. 1/2, where they take off like birds riding a jet stream.
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