Beethoven: "archduke Trio", Op. 97; Schubert: Trio, Op. 99 D. 898

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BEETHOVEN Piano Trio in Bb, op. 97, “Archduke.” SCHUBERT Piano Trio in Bb, op. 99 Tr di Trieste INSTITUTO DISCOGRAFICO ITALIANO 6678, mono (69:52)

These recordings are taken from radio air checks in Cologne on March 12, 1958 (Schubert) and September 23, 1959 (Beethoven). I do not believe these are the same performances by this long-lived, estimable ensemble that can be heard in Deutsche Grammophon’s five-disc compilation of the Trio di Trieste’s complete recordings, but I wouldn’t swear to it since I don’t own that set.

The Trio di Trieste was one of the 20th century’s longest-surviving piano trios, and one that has often been compared to the Serkin-Busch and Cortot-Thibaud-Casals Trios. The comparison is more apt, I think, to the latter than it is to the former, for these are readings of a fairly Romantic persuasion, with tempos, dynamics, and phrasing undergoing frequent adjustments to fit the mood of the moment. Within that interpretive paradigm, however, it has to be said that the playing of Renato Zanettovich, Lebero Lana, and Dario De Rosa is of a beguiling beauty that simply silences any criticism of the ensemble’s stylistic approach.

My only regret is that I never got to see and hear the Trio di Trieste perform live—though I suppose these air checks are the next closest thing to it—for whatever one might point to that the players don’t do right in terms of observing the absolute letter of the scores, one cannot cite a single thing they do wrong in terms of intuiting the music’s spirit and emotional core. These performances simply transcend any mundane considerations as they ascend into the realm of the sublime. For a glimpse of the starry firmament Beethoven reveals to us, listen to the hushed, almost trembling awe the players convey in the closing measures of the “Archduke” Trio’s great Andante . It will make you want to fall to your knees in wonderment. This is the performance of this movement I have sought my entire life, and finally I have found it. All else, as the sage said, is mere commentary.

In closing, let me just say that the sound of these recordings is so good it’s not even necessary to qualify it with an excuse about their source. If I were not writing this review for the regular composer section of the magazine, I could easily see submitting it as an entry to the Classical Hall of Fame. Is further recommendation needed?

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: IDIS6678

  • UPC: 8021945002890

  • Label: Idis

  • Composer: Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Trio di Trieste