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Beethoven for Three, Vol. 2

Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Emanuel Ax (piano) (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Symphony No. 6 (arr. Wosner); Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 1/3
Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Emanuel Ax (piano)
Sony Classical 19658739372   71:54 mins


This distinguished trio has already given us recordings of the Second and Fifth Symphonies, so the ‘Pastoral’ might be seen as a logical next step. If you know the orchestral original, you’ll be making instant (and probably unconscious) comparisons in your head, but if you imagine this coming at you as something completely fresh and new, does it work? The sound of the trio draws attention to the pedal points and repetitions in the first movement, but is less successful in the subtle layering of textures and sustained lines in the ‘Scene by the Brook’, and the ‘Storm’ is overloaded and strenuous. In the ‘Shepherds’ Thanksgiving’, the tempo doesn’t always hold (down to the performers), depriving the music of its breadth and nobility, and there’s not enough weight at the climax (down to the arranger).

Kavakos and Ma have clearly thought about how they use vibrato, and that’s a welcome feature of their Op. 1/3. It also shows how much Beethoven integrated his musical material with his chosen instrumental medium. From the start, everything sounds much more comfortable, and lies better on the instruments, particularly the piano. In the ‘Pastoral’, Ax had to contend with some ungrateful writing, notably in accompanying figures, but he is liberated here, with trills and passagework sparkling effortlessly in the outer movements, and leading off deft characterisation from all three players in the Andante’s variations. With charm in the Minuet, this adds up to a fine recorded account.


Martin Cotton