Legendary pianist and conductor now in his late seventies joined hands with two young string players in two concerts covering the six important piano trios of Beethoven. Violinist, his son Michael Barenboim and young Persian-Austrian cellist Kian Soltani joined the veteran pianist whose playing remain youthful, vigorous and highly communicative. The first concert which was the one I attended took place on Tuesday 28th August in the Grand Room of the Mozarteum. This has a ripe and resonant acoustic ideally suited to chamber music specially when played by such gifted musicians. Tempi needed to be harnessed in order not to lose phrases which required time to speak especially here in the case of the cellist. Barenboim Sr. is a seasoned chamber musician. Yet even he set rather a quick tempo to the first movement of the opening trio no. 1 in E flat op. 1 no. 1. But by the repeat of the exposition the tempo has settled down very nicely though it was still more like a concerto for piano with accompanying strings. This however is typically Beethoven’s early style heavily influenced by his teacher Haydn and Mozart.
Beethoven wrote the two op.70 trios while staying on Countess Anna Maria von Erdody’s estate in 1808. Op. 70 no. 1 in D major known as the “Ghost” is one of his best known works rivalled only by the “Archduke” in the genre. It was dubbed the “Ghost” because of its strangely scored and undeniably eerie-sounding slow movement.
The op. 70 pieces are representative of Beethoven’s “Middle” period which went from roughly 1803 to 1812 immediately after finishing his sixth symphony the Pastoral.
Piano trio no. 6 in E flat major op. 70 no. 2 is my personal favourite. It is full of singable melodies lilting rhythms and rich scoring with much interplay between the instruments. It has a bucolic flavour not dissimilar to the Pastoral symphony.
This concert was quite simply a revelation not least because Barenboim’s piano playing was superior and echt Beethoven. The youth and vitality of his playing was commensurate with his younger colleagues who acquitted themselves commendably.