Beethoven: Triple Concerto (CD review)
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:
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.