Beethoven: Triple Concerto (CD review)

Also, Piano Trio, Op. 11. The Eroica Trio; Prague Chamber Orchestra. EMI 7243-5-62655-2.

How do you make beautiful music even more beautiful? You could start by having three exceptionally beautiful and talented people play it. But beyond the obvious physical appeal of the Eroica Trio's membership--pianist Erika Nickrenz, violinist Adela Pena, and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio--there is playing of care, fluidity, and sophistication. Performing together since they were children and formalizing their group well over a decade ago, these three artists have perfected their style in a graceful give-and-take of musicianship. Their work on the Triple Concerto is a delight.

The first thing one notices about this performance of Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56, however, is not necessarily the easygoing refinement of the Eroica Trio's presentation, but the fact that the Prague Chamber Orchestra accompanies them. This means a lighter, airier interpretation than one normally hears from a full orchestra. Indeed, because listening to more grandiose productions like that of the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert Karajan with stars David Oistrackh, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Sviatoslav Richter (EMI or Hi-Q) have spoiled me, it took a few minutes for my mind and ears to adjust to the smaller proportions of the Eroica Trio's presentation. But adjust I did, in time to appreciate the quiet elegance these ladies exude throughout their reading.

And since the Triple Concerto provides for a supple interplay of soloists and orchestra, as well as sporadically highlighting each solo instrument individually, the piece allows the Eroica Trio to display all their liveliness and charm together as well as separately. While, admittedly, they can't match the all-star Karajan team, they bring an affectionate warmth of their own to the piece. I wish the Prague Chamber Orchestra had shown as much enthusiasm for the work as the principal players did, though.

Accompanying the big Triple Concerto on the disc we find Beethoven's smaller, earlier, and more playful Piano Trio, Op.11, which is also a captivating little work of surprisingly complementary design. The three Eroica Trio musicians play it tastefully, gracefully, and with at least a modest élan.

EMI's sound in this 2003 release (now Warner Classics' sound, I suppose) tends to emphasize the three soloists quite a lot more than it does the orchestra, but no doubt that's as it should be, so it's not a big complaint. The sonics are delicate and smooth, perhaps lacking that final degree of transparency, air, dynamics, and dimensionality that might put the recording in the audiophile class, but compensating for it by the affability of its performances. The disc makes a good companion to, but surely not a replacement for, the classic EMI Karajan all-star recording I mentioned above.


To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click here:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa