Florestan Trio

A good sense of humour would not be the first quality listed on Beethoven's personal ad. But, in addition to his fondness for terrible puns, the lighter side of Beethoven's personality does emerge in a handful of pieces. The Op 1 piano trios, for example, are full of rhythmic jousting and Haydnesque witticisms, even though the composer's characteristic grandness of vision sits awkwardly with them.

The Florestan Trio's unapologetically full-blooded approach is undoubtedly the right one, a judgment confirmed by this blistering performance of the G major trio. As in their excellent Hyperion recording, they made no attempt to smooth over the bumps but simply revelled in the work's rambunctious temperament. The Rossinian finale was a blast, the awkward piano part like a boxer in ballet shoes bravely keeping step with fleeter-footed companions.

This was a good beginning to a concert that ended with an exquisitely raw performance of the much more famous "Ghost" trio, in which every interpretative judgment betrayed class and unegotistical musicianship. The tension between the ethereal and fuller-bodied tones in the slow movement was perfectly tuned, while the first movement, for all its cracking pace, sounded edgy, spotted with dimly suspected sorrows. Such playing makes you remember just how modern Beethoven still is.

In between came a new trio by Huw Watkins. For all the angularity of its writing, Watkins's piece is much more traditional in conception than either of the two Beethoven works, with three movements in fast-slow-fast arrangement and a harmonic and melodic conception that never seems to develop. There are some striking moments – FaurĂ©'s great trio often comes to mind – but its monothematic single-mindedness is most reminiscent of Beethoven's bashing-at-the-door, you-will-let-me-in style. Which is all very well but for the fact that when you do open the door, it helps when it's Beethoven doing the knocking.

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