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Forget ‘32 Beethoven Sonatas’. Count in the 10 violin sonatas, the five for cello, the Horn Sonata, the quintet with winds, and discount the immature stuff (three solo sonatas, three piano quartets), and there are more like 50 for pianists to play – plus the seven mature trios here. The Hyperion set is ideal for library-builders, including everything Beethoven wrote for the medium (details above). Op 11 is in its composer-sanctioned version, with violin instead of clarinet; the lesser works show the composer developing fast. The Florestan Trio is exemplary.

Skip Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann, Fauré and Saint-Saëns – this month anyway – for something more enterprising. Not even the celebrity trio and huge dynamic range of Kremer, Dirvanauskaitė and Buniatishvili can prevent the Tchaikovsky A minor Trio from dragging. This was the work dedicated to Nikolai (brother of Anton) Rubinstein. Twenty minutes is a long time to sustain the elegiac mood of the first movement, and the second-movement variations take even longer (allegedly depicting successive episodes in Nikolai’s career). Variation 3, featuring Buniatishvili’s pearly scales, is a delightful interlude. The CD aims, startlingly perhaps, to present ‘the beginning and… the end of Russian chamber music’, the coupling – from Victor Kissine, St Petersburg-born and pupil of Boris Tishenko – having been composed as recently as 2009. The title means ‘mirror’ and was suggested by the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, already known to us through Shostakovich. Kissine shares the older composer’s general pessimism and bleakness of texture.

The album of Chopin bin-ends is cleverly planned for straight-through listening, and culminates in the G minor Piano Trio Op 8. The piano writing is typically elaborate: Crawford-Phillips sparkles, while Broman and Svedberg make the most of their few chances to shine. The overall effect is polite rather than passionate (Chopin’s fault): the posthumous two-piano Rondo is civilised rather than stormy and doesn’t sound difficult. Even easier – in fact, childishly simple – is the piano part to the flute variations, ideal for pianists who can barely play. Emily Benyon dispatches the flute fireworks impeccably. The two solo pieces are for completists only.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica


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