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Best Recordings of 2012 (#8)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2012. My lists for the previous years: 2011, (2011 – “Almost”), 2010, (2010 – “Almost”), 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 8 - New Release

L.v.Beethoven & A.Berg, Violin Concertos, Isabelle Faust, Claudio Abbado, Orchestra Mozart, Harmonia Mundi 902105

available at Amazon>
L.v.Beethoven, A.Berg, Violin Concertos,
I.Faust / C.Abbado / Orchestra Mozart
Harmonia Mundi

Everyone seems to talk about Isabelle Faust’s new Beethoven Violin Concerto, with Claudio Abbado and his Orchestra Mozart. And yes, it is has years of interpretive gunk stripped away with its simple, toned-down honest to the orchestral part especially. And yes, it is the most touching, least affected new recording I’ve heard since Thomas Zehetmair and Frans Brüggen’s (which is still more visceral and remains my favorite if forced to pick one.) Like Zehetmair and as on her first recording with Jiri Belohlávek (also HMU), Faust—thankfully—doesn’t use the staid Kreisler cadenzas but the much more dramatic Beethoven-Schneiderhan (or some such similar) version.

Yadda-yadda-yadda. The real deal on this disc is the Berg concerto: The saturation of Faust’s tone, slightly roughened like seductive sandpaper, gives the violin concerto a quality that marries the poignantly disturbing with the felt; harshness with yearning beauty. Arabella Steinbacher’s Berg, among the best and also coupled with Beethoven, is an excellent, telling complement: A celebration of grievous, heartfelt beauty… a kind of innocent mourning to Faust/Abbado’s carnal grief. How lucky, to be so spoiled for riches in either of these concertos.

# 8 – Reissue

L.v.Beethoven, Complete Piano Trios, Trio Wanderer, Harmonia Mundi 902100

available at Amazon
Beethoven, (Complete) Piano Trios,
Trio Wanderer
Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven also on the re-issue front: The Trio Wanderer (ARD Music Competition laureates) and their now complete set of the Piano Trios join the surprisingly thin top tier of complete Beethoven Piano Trio cycles. There they enjoy the musical company of the smiling, glowing second Beaux Arts traversal (Philips/Decca, with violinist Isador Cohen) and of the athletic Florestan Trio (Hyperion).

Beethoven’s Piano Trios are a little convoluted; their numbering is inconsistent, the opus numbers haphazard, the provenance not always clear. The Wanderer covers the conventionally accepted core Trios: The three Opus 1 Trios, Opus 11 (variously a clarinet- or piano trio), the trio of famous central Trios opp.70 1 & 2 and op.97, Opus 44 “Variations on an original theme”, Opus 121a Kakadu Variations, the early WoO 38 Piano Trio, and the late WoO 39 Allegretto for Piano Trio. That makes the Wanderer the least complete among these “complete” sets: The Florestan throws in the very early Hess 48 Allegretto, the Beaux Arts (as does the equally completist Guarneri Trio Prague) further adds Opus 38 (arranged from the Septet, op.20), and most importantly Opus 36b, Beethoven’s own transcription of the Second Symphony. None of these complete cycles include Opus 63 (an arrangement of an arrangement—from Wind Octet op.103 via String Quintet op.4 to Piano Trio), Hess 47 (an arrangement of the first movement of the op.3 String Trio, and Kinsky/Halm Anhang 3 (an incomplete two movement piece long misattributed to Mozart). These Piano Trio foundlings can be added by picking up the Beethoven Project Trio’s disc dedicated to just them.)

Total completism isn’t everything, though, and the wonderful muscular sound of the Trio Wanderer and the superbly natural Harmonia Mundi recording should make this a tempting addition to either of the other cycles. For those yet to discover the Beethoven Piano Trios it’s a co-equal choice alongside Beaux Arts & Florestan. That it is luxuriously packed into a neat, space-saving four-disc slip-case only helps.

Edit: Turns out that the Wanderer Trio's Beethoven isn't a re-issue at all, but a new release. My fault entirely... but I'm not changing the list now.

-> Best Recordings of 2012 #1 - 10

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