Fine playing in this underappreciated genre of Haydn’s output

Trio Gaspard: Haydn, Gorokhov

The Strad Issue: March 2023

Description: Fine playing in this underappreciated genre of Haydn’s output

Musicians: Trio Gaspard

Works: Haydn: Piano Trios vol.2: no.7 in G major HobXV:41 no.21 in B flat major HobXV:8, no.33 in G minor HobXV:19, no.35 in C major HobXV:21, no.45 in E flat major HobXV:29. Gorokhov: For Gaspard

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN20270

Last August I greeted the first instalment in Trio Gaspard’s survey of Haydn’s piano trios as a reason to be cheerful. And if the way of the world has wiped the smile off your face in the intervening months, here’s Volume 2 to put it back. Not only is the music itself impossible to resist, but once again the delight these players so evidently take in it positively pours out of the speakers.

Like the piano sonatas, the trios have two sets of modern catalogue numbers and many bear 18th-century opus numbers, making matters hopelessly confusing. The Gaspard again mixes early, middle and late, with the four-movement Trio no.7 of around 1760 little more than a keyboard sonata with string cladding, the violin and cello beginning to come into their own in the two-movement no.21 from the mid-1780s. Those of the following decade spring from Haydn’s encounter with British pianos while in London and his sincere appreciation of the gifted women who played them. Nevertheless, while the keyboard retains its primacy, Haydn was far less guilty of simply letting the strings double right and left hands than he is often accused of being.

Once again, in the hands of Trio Gaspard the three instruments are equal partners in the conversation, the flow of repartee facilitated not only by the subtly observed detail of their playing but also by the ideal balance of Jonathan Cooper’s sound at Potton Hall in Suffolk. Repeats are freely ornamented – cheekily so in the best-known work here, the Trio no.45 from 1795. The bonus (if such it be) is the premiere of Leonid Gorokhov’s For Gaspard, a five-minute jeu d’esprit that juggles Haydnesque out-takes without ever feeling like an in-joke too far. Great fun!