The fifth and final installment of the much-acclaimed Beethoven series by the Van Baerle Trio. Two “non-piano-trio” pieces are included: the original arrangement of the Septet and the Triple Concerto.
In 1799, after having made a name for himself with major compositions in the genres of the piano trio, piano sonata, violin sonata, and string quartet, but before finishing his First Symphony, Beethoven wrote a work for mixed strings and winds. This piece, the Septet op. 20, would become one of his most popular compositions, with a large number of arrangements, including the one for the piano trio on this disc.
Nevertheless, for a variety of complex reasons the composition would also become something of a sensitive topic for Beethoven: not only would its continued popularity overshadow some of his later works, but it would also remind him of failed attempts to cure his hearing loss. The instrumentation of the Septet—clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, double bass—is highly unusual, although it is not clear whether this was motivated by whoever commissioned the work or whether this was Beethoven’s choice.
The form, however, is more traditional and clearly related to the divertimenti by Mozart, with six movements that alternate fast and slow tempos. As is often the case with Beethoven, this work is much more thematically unified than many of its precedents. The fast themes of the outer movements, for instance, are both based on a jump from B-flat to E-flat, with the first movement decorating the former note and the finale the latter.
Careful listeners might discover also another link that would have been lost on the audience at the early performances, as the third movement shares its theme with the previously composed but at the time unpublished Piano Sonata op. 49 no. 2, which would not appear until 1805.
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:13:10
dCS & Merging Technologies
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Bert van der Wolf
|Original Recording Format|
Bert van der Wolf
Bert van der Wolf
Muziekcentrum van de omroep MCO 1, Hilversum
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||April 10, 2020|
It’s rare that one gets to experience a true tour de force, but that is what I’ve enjoyed the past several months with the Van Baerle Trio’s traversal of Beethoven’s complete works for piano trio—a marvellous journey through some of the greatest music ever written. (…) What I can say is that, overall, these are freshly vigorous performances. I love them for their clarity, intelligence, precise ensemble, and joie de vivre. They are not played as historically informed performances (HIP), but the performances certainly have been informed by the HIP movement in their lightness, their direct statement, their lack of over-indulgence. These are largely quick, lithe performances but with a great delicacy of touch. They don’t dawdle, but they linger where the music benefits from attention to that space and quiet between the notes that so greatly adds meaning in the right hands. And these are the right hands, indeed.
Here, the members of the Van Baerle Trio, are at their best and clearly at ease on their home turf, displaying the same homogeneity as in previous releases. Minnaar takes plenty of room to let the beauty of Chris Maene’s Straight Strung Concert Grand shine, whilst adequately supporting Maria Milstein, playing an original violin by Michel Angelo Bergonzi, and Gideon den Herder, playing a ditto cello by Giuseppe dall‘Aglio, though both with modern strings.
They give a reading that lets the audience join in the deeper meaning Beethoven no doubt wanted to convey to his violinist friend and specialist in the field of hearing, desperately hoping that such a dedicated transcription would be met with a cure to overcome his loss of hearing. A far cry from the light-hearted wind sextet. Beautifully shaped sensitively played!
Recorded and mastered by Bert van der Wolf and his top-of-the-range Northstar Recording Services equipment, the listener gets the best of what the acoustics of the respective recording venues allow: Atrium City Hall The Hague (Triple Concerto), one of the two temporary concert Halls of the Residentie Orkest, and the internationally well-known and appreciated Studio 1 of the Dutch Radio, Hilversum (Trio Op. 38).
Taken all 5 volumes together, the Van Baerle Trio has set down a survey that can easily measure up to other top sets, no matter how complete they may be, with this one having the additional advantage of great sound, the inclusion of a superbly played Septet Op. 20 transcription, and last but not least a remarkable account of the ‘Triple Concerto’. So, why not go for it!
NativeDSD Senior Reviewer
A great finale to a great series. Highly recommended!
In the last three years, the Van Baerle Trio has been busy recording Beethoven’s complete piano trios. This month Challenge Classics is launching the fifth and final release. And that contains a nice addition to the well-known trio series.
Hannes Minnaar, piano, Maria Milstein, violin, and Gideon den Herder, cello, conclude with Beethoven’s own trio adaptation of the popular Septet in E flat, opus 20 and the Triple Concerto in C, opus 56.
The latter work includes the Swiss Piano Trio (Audite). You can argue whether it belongs in this chamber music cycle, but I think so. The Triple Concert is a revolutionary ensemble work that takes chamber music to a more rhapsodic level by engaging an orchestra.
Rhapsodic is a way of playing that you can safely leave to the Van Baerle Trio. The trio is perfectly attuned to each other and the musicians know exactly how they can best play these lesser-known Beethoven compositions. So they do that by surrendering themselves to pure fun.
Boy, what energy and momentum is released here. I have never had so much fun with this remarkable concert. Thanks to this release I am completely bowled over. Something older top recordings from the catalog (Beaux Arts Trio, David Oistrakh cs) did not work.
But that turnaround is also not surprising with an accompanying Residence Orchestra that is being driven by Jan Willem de Vriend. This conductor intuitively manages to touch every piece to the core.
With him, you always get the music fresh from the heart and with welcome surprise moments. It’s wonderful how he knows how to tie parts two and three together.
The trio is, of course, central to the septet arrangement presented here as Piano Trio in E flat, opus 38. We hear how Hannes Minnaar and his ironing colleagues go deeper and come out richer together. A very welcome contribution to a Beethoven year.
Anyone who thought that the successful Beethoven series of the Dutch Van Baerle Trio was finished after part four will need to look up.
No, album five, the keystone, does not contain a recently surfaced piece that increases the number of Beethoven’s piano trios – eight pieces, plus some loose stuff.
However, a work that you do not expect in a chamber music series: the Triple Concert. After all, that also requires an orchestra. The album’s booklet cleverly speaks of Beethoven’s ‘most instrumented chamber music’ and yes, that’s how you can view it.
Conductor Jan Willem de Vriend stretches the Residentie Orkest like a second skin around violin, cello and piano. With an occasional combination of expensive soloists, the Tripel concert often ends in toil and smear. Not at the Van Baerle, that delicate club. In the Septet, edited by Beethoven himself, they make music with sophistication. Begin part 2, Adagio cantabile : heavenly.
It all ends well. This is perhaps the best way to summarize this latest album from the Beethoven project of the Van Baerle Trio.
What else can be said if these interpretations can only be discussed in superlatives? Is there still a certain highlight to be determined if one follows the other? While it really doesn’t matter whether this exquisite trio presents itself in the concert hall or in the studio.
Regarding the concert stage: quite recently, on March 10, the corona crisis was already underway, I heard the Van Baerle Trio in the Jurriaanse Zaal of the Rotterdam Doelen in works by MacMillan, Saint-Saëns and of course, Beethoven and the grandiose game was absolutely breathtaking.
What was also noticeable at the time was that the three of them felt frank and free, did not have to look closely at each other and constantly gave each other space in a continuous stream of spirituality, inventiveness, passion, and lyricism. Performances full of youthful freshness and fun, rhythmic and dynamic, moreover, very strong and all in all, so intensely music-esque that even the notorious Rotterdam coughers were silent. You really don’t experience that often.
Of course, this is music that places extremely high demands on the interplay, on the perfect balance, on the beauty of the sound, but perhaps it is all the more surprising that Van Baerle manages to evoke the suggestion of improvisation and intuition, just as evident besides, as the intense concentration, being constantly on the ball.
So not a single flaw, which also extends to this latest addition, in which – very sensible! – the Tripel concert has also been given a worthy place (after all, it is also a piano trio, but with an orchestra), although it is certainly not one of Beethoven’s most successful works. However, the Van Baerle gets everything out of it.
The latter also applies to the share of the Residentie Orkest, often even literally spearheaded by Jan Willem de Vriend, which, in its view, shows a beautiful fusion of traditional and authentic. Incidentally, it is interesting to include another ‘Dutch’ performance: the one by the Storioni Trio with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra conducted by the same conductor: Jan Willem de Vriend, in a recording from 2012, also released by Challenge Classics. Unlike Hannes Minnaar who speaks at the ‘Chris Maene Straight Strung Concert Grand’, Bart van de Roer plays a fort piano by Lagrasse from 1815.
The Piano Trio in E flat is Beethoven’s own adaptation for clarinet or violin, cello, and piano from the Septet op 1803. 20. The six-part work is recorded as on. 38 and the Van Baerle Trio – it cannot be said often enough – also has a model interpretation.
Short and sweet: this latest album is just as much an asset as any previous one in this phenomenal series, immaculately captured in surround by Bert van der Wolf of Northstar.
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