Saturday, May 16, 2009

Honoring Haydn's Sound

There appear to be far fewer omissions among the piano trios (Hoboken XV) in the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition; and those omissions are likely to be far less disconcerting than those of the string quartets. More important is that, once again, Joseph Haydn's sense of the sounds of his instruments has been honored in these recordings. The ensemble is the Van Swieten Trio, which performs on period instruments. Thus, my sound-based disagreement with Menahem Pressler, who has always played his Haydn on a modern piano, over the question of whether or not the piano in these trios is too dominant has been resolved to my satisfaction. Playing on the instruments they have selected, the Van Swieten Trio never seems to run into problems of balance. As always seems to be the case with these Brilliant editions, the ordering of the trios is a bit arbitrary; so my traversal of the collection will not reflect any chronological account of how Haydn's approaches to writing for this ensemble may (or may not) have changed. However, of the nine trios I have listened to thus far (one coming from Hoboken's supplement), none have fallen into the trap of sounding like what I have previously called a "concerto for piano and very small orchestra." The performers themselves appear to be members of a larger Van Swieten Society. Unfortunately, their home page is only in Dutch; but it appears that they have an active concert program. With any luck they may arrange a tour that will bring them to San Francisco, since I suspect that a live performance would be quite a stimulating listening experience.

No comments: