- Piano Quartet No. 3 in C major, WoO 36/3
- Piano Quartet No. 1 in E flat major, WoO 36/1
- Piano Quartet No. 2 in D major, WoO 36/2
Written when the composer was only 15, Beethoven's three "Piano Quartets, WoO 36," nevertheless bear many of the characteristics of the mature composer in their strong harmonies and persuasively argued forms. There are moments that directly prefigure his early piano sonatas, such as the graceful transitions in the opening movement of the "C major Quartet," and the dramatic tone of the central Allegro con spirito from the "E flat major Quartet." But essentially, these are tuneful, well-made works of an extremely talented young composer who admired, and to a degree, emulated the works of Mozart and Haydn. Recordings of the quartets have been rare, so this disc by the New Zealand Piano Quartet will be welcomed by listeners looking for more from Beethoven than merely his canonical works with opus numbers. (WoO is an acronym for "Werk ohne Opuszahl" -- Work without opus number.) With a bright tone, an easy ensemble, and a well-balanced blend, the New Zealand musicians make the most of the music, finding beauty in its youthful impetuosity and hints of the genius to come in its occasional audacities. Though not in the same class as the venerable 1969 recording with Christoph Eschenbach and the Amadeus Quartet, this disc will be welcomed by devoted Beethoven fans looking for a supplemental set of performances. Naxos' sound is a bit dry, but otherwise quite realistic.