CD Review: Beethoven Piano Trios/ Seraphim Trio


The Seraphim Trio: Anna Goldsworthy, piano/ Helen Ayers, violin/ Timothy Nankervis, cello

The Seraphim Trio’s new recording of three Beethoven piano trios is a spin-off from their 2015 Beethoven Immersion project when they performed all Beethoven’s piano trios across a wide variety of venues around Australia.  Throughout this recording they display the classic virtues of fine chamber music playing: blend, balance, tight ensemble and well-chosen tempi.  Their unanimity of style also adapts successfully to the changes required by Beethoven’s evolving compositional development.

The CD opens with the Trio in G major Op.1 no.1, modelled on the piano trios of Haydn and Mozart, but cast in four movements, which is one way in which the young Beethoven signals his intention to take his own path.  The playing is finely poised while still highlighting Beethoven’s characteristic changes of mood.  The slow movement opens with some delectable legato playing from both the violin and cello and exudes a feeling of contentment.  The playing in the scherzo conveys the delights of domestic music-making while the finale sets out at a sprightly tempo emphasising the young Beethoven’s sense of fun.

The second work on the CD is Beethoven’s mature Trio in D major, Op. 70 no.1, also known as the ‘ghost’.  From Beethoven’s middle period, the work is painted on a broader canvas and the Seraphim Trio adjust their approach accordingly, adopting a more assertive, fuller sound.  In the unearthly slow middle movement, which prompts the work’s nickname, the angst and inner turmoil are well brought out.

The final work is the Trio in B-flat Op. 11 nicknamed ‘Gassenhauer’.  It was originally written for clarinet, cello and piano but Beethoven adapted the clarinet part for violin, probably to increase sales for the work’s publication.  The violin version does not have the tonal variety of the original, but the Seraphim Trio nevertheless produce a winning interpretation with the sentimental atmosphere of the slow movement especially well brought out.  The subtitle ‘street song’ (Gassenhauer) refers to the set of colourful variations in the last movement which are based on an opera aria that was popular in Vienna at the time.  These provide a rollicking conclusion to the CD.

The recording was made in the Eugene Goossens Hall at the ABC’s Ultimo Centre.  The recording engineer, Virginia Reed, has captured an intimate chamber music acoustic, well-balanced and with an attractive bloom particularly for the lower notes of the piano.

The Seraphim Trio’s Beethoven Piano Trios CD is available on ABC Classics 481 1980.

Larry Turner for SoundsLikeSydney©


Larry Turner has been singing in choirs for many years – both in Sydney and London.  He is an avid attender of operas and concerts, with an emphasis on vocal music.  He particularly enjoys music from both the great a capella period and the baroque – especially the lesser-known works of Bach and Handel.  He has written programme notes for Sydney Philharmonia, the Intervarsity Choral Festival and the Sydneian Bach Choir and is currently part of a team researching the history of Sydney Philharmonia for its forthcoming centenary.





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