Already established within Viennese culture by Haydn and Mozart, the trio genre was taken to new limits by the inexhaustible imagination of Beethoven's genius: "a serene joy come from an unknown world", was E. T. A. Hoffmann's reaction on hearing the Trio in D major Op.70 no.1. The Wanderers have ventured into the Beethoven piano trios and mastered every inch of its topography. What better guide could there be for us to follow with total confidence, in their 25th anniversary year?
This set is, indeed, complete, including as it does the six standard trios as well as the op. 11 work that Beethoven originally wrote for a clarinet, but later arranged for violin. The performances were, to judge from viewing, given exclusively for video, no audience evidently being present. The third of the op. 1 set and op.11 are in black and white; everything else is color. Throughout, the picture quality is excellent. The mono sound, however, is disappointing for the vintage: somewhat brittle in the piano and shrill in the violin. Much of this can be corrected with good tone controls, however. Prior to filming these performances, this triumvirate recorded studio versions of these works that were widely admired. Nearly all of what is offered here is in the same class: well-organized, vibrant readings attuned to the wit, drama, and lyricism of these remarkable scores. Everything in op. 1 works well, as does the violin version of op. 11. The two trios in op. 70 are, of course, studies in contrast—No. 1 comprising some of the most explosive chamber music that Beethoven ever composed, No. 2 more lyrical and experimental, its eerie opening being a case in point. Both works are impressively played, No.1 (“Ghost”) projected with thrilling energy and spooky delicacy.
"…The pianist, Chia Chou, deserves particular praise for his wide dynamic and tonal range: the arpeggiated patterns suggest reserves of tonal weight; elsewhere he articulates individual notes with a delicate, crystalline ping. Clear, warm, and appealing sound reproduction further enhances the proceedings. Enthusiastically recommended, particularly to devotees of the French Romantics." ~musicweb-international
Johann Nepomuk Hummel was a pupil of Mozart. A child prodigy himself, he developed a highly virtuoso technique on the piano, and built an impressive career as one of the most famous and sought after pianists and composers of early 19th century Europe. Even today some of his piano works offer a serious challenge to professional pianists.