"This [Archduke Trio] is a delight: sprightly, well-articulated playing which bounds with vitality."
This is a delight: sprightly, well-articulated playing which bounds with vitality. This ‘Archduke’ (dedicated to Beethoven’s patron Archduke Rudolph in 1811) starts in an almost improvisational spirit, the players gently assembling themselves before coming together in bar 14. The energy of the performance is driven by the pianist Wu Qian, absolutely attentive to all of Beethoven’s quirky markings and sudden sforzandos; the touches of rhythmic subtlety also come from the piano, just momentary holdings-back to shape a phrase or clarify a structure.
There is the familiar issue that the strings, and especially the cello, sometimes find it difficult to penetrate the piano’s sonorities, but Qian’s playing is so transparent that the problem is minimised. The witty staccato Scherzo has lift-off, while its sliding, gloomy chromatic Trio suddenly sounds like a pre-echo of Peter Grimes! (Unlike some performances and recordings, the Sitkovetskys take all repeats in this movement.) I could do with a little more singing tone from Isang Enders’s cello in the Andante, even in the pianissimo passages, but the final movement of this hugely original piece bounds away with unstoppable verve.
The much earlier Trio Op 1 No 2 in G is more firmly in the Haydn tradition (and indeed was played for that composer at Prince Lichnowsky’s soirée in 1795) and has a cheery, rather rustic style; Alexander Sitkovetsky’s violin sings in the Largo, then Beethoven adds a Scherzo, before the uproariously funny repeated-note finale – not rushed here, but delivered with just the right manic wit.
Review by Nicholas Kenyon for BBC Music Magazine
Read original review here
Listen to Beethoven - Piano Trios, Vol. 2 here
Release date: 4 August 2023
Record label: BIS Records
Catalogue number: BIS-2539
Repertoire: Beethoven Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1 No. 2, Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 97, ‘Archduke’
Artists: Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin Wu Qian, piano, Isang Enders, cello
Listen to Beethoven - Piano Trios, Vol. 1 here