- Trio for violin, viola & cello in G major, Op. 9/1
- Trio for violin, viola & cello in D major, Op. 9/2
- Trio for violin, viola & cello in C minor, Op. 9/3
Beethoven's "String Trios of Op. 9," composed in 1797 and 1798 for an Irish patron who had given him a horse (a neglected aspect of Beethoven biographical studies), are among the least-often performed of his mature works. It's true that they don't announce the imposing spaces of the Op. 18 string quartets that would follow in a couple of years, but they're quite surprising among the works he composed around this time in their seriousness and scope. They are among his first works to definitively depart from Haydn's and Mozart's examples; unlike the string trios by those composers Beethoven lays out full-scale four-movement structures in each trio, with his new and characteristic scherzo in third position in two of them. They're tightly constructed, with pretty much equal roles played by the instruments, and they reward small groups who can combine a warm Central European with precise ensemble as the three members of Hungary's Kodály Quartet do here. The group catches the rough humor of early Beethoven, which is a bit more submerged here than in some other works, but is nevertheless crucial. Sample the proffered but then withdrawn consolation of the calm answer to the opening grim phrase in the Scherzo of the "String Trio in C minor, Op. 9/3" (track 11). Strong sound from a small Hungarian concert hall is another plus in a recording that belongs on the shelves or hard drives of those with good collections of Beethoven chamber music. Notes by Naxos stalwart Keith Anderson are in English only.
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Fans of chamber music are always going to come back again and again to Beethoven's 17 great string quartets (particularly his "late quartets") as classic exemplars of this intimate compositional art. But before he had mastered the quartet, these three lovely, early string trios in G major, D major and C minor (Opus 9, composed in 1797-1798) demonstrated his interest in and facility at such miniatures. While he was composing great keyboard music with one part of his brain, Beethoven could also dash off these exquisite trios, scored for violin, viola and cello, with ease. In this 2008 recording, these trios are played by Attila Falvay (violin), János Fejérvári (viola), and György Éder (cello). These three are members of the Kodály Quartet, famous for their recordings of the complete cycles of Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert for the Naxos label. These trios may have had their inspiration from the "divertimentos" of Haydn and Mozart, but they are characteristically Beethoven, full of the dynamics and drama we associate with him. There is equality between the three instruments, though the violin floating on top grabs the most attention (particularly in the allegretto of the D major trio). The phrasing from all players is crisp, clear and unfussy, and naturally, given the nature of the compositions, uncluttered. All the way through to the stirring Finale: Presto of the C minor, it is a fine recording of the first bloom of Beethoven's genius.