"Great music, boring cello parts was the traditional verdict on Haydn’s keyboard trios. If you got to know these glorious works through the now-classic 1970s Beaux Arts series you might well have agreed, so discreetly balanced was the cello, with pianist Menahem Pressler the undisputed star of the show. More recent recordings from the Vienna Piano Trio, Florestan et al have confirmed the cello’s crucial colouristic and structural role in music predicated on the close interdependence of the instruments. In this opening salvo of a projected complete cycle, Trio Gaspard are likewise a true democracy, relishing Haydn’s unpredictable interplay between piano and violin, and his subtly varied textures, as in the many moments when the cello tellingly migrates to the tenor register.
As Gaspard pianist Nicholas Rimmer explains in an illuminating note, each disc in the series will present a contrasted programme rather than a chronological sequence. So alongside three relatively familiar trios from Haydn’s second London visit (among them the melancholy F sharp minor, No 40, dedicated to Haydn’s lover Rebecca Schroeter), we get a pair of little-played works from the 1780s: the two-movement No 23, with its contrapuntally inclined opening Allegro and darting tarantella finale, and No 20, whose finale indulges in some crazy harmonic deceptions.
With their evident love of the music and minute care in its preparation, the Gaspard are at least a match for the best of their rivals, including the Vienna Piano Trio in Nos 32 and 38 and the Florestan in No 40. Their performances are both vital and finely detailed, with an inner rhythmic life and – crucially in Haydn – a palpable delight in the unexpected. Complementing Rimmer’s crisp pianism (not least in the scintillating finale of No 23), violinist Jonian Ilias Kadesha uses vibrato sparingly for expressive effect, while Vashti Mimosa Hunter provides an eloquent rebuff to the old cliché that Haydn’s cello parts are dispensable add-ons. The Gaspard nicely catch the characteristic mix of lyrical spaciousness and improvisatory quirkiness in the first movements of Nos 32 and 38, while their broad tempo for No 40’s opening Allegro enhances the music’s pensive gravity. They are always alert to the comic-dramatic import of Haydn’s pauses and fermatas; and more than any of the rival groups, they add graceful and witty touches of ornamentation on repeats. The violin’s gleeful whoop up the scale near the start of No 38 is just one delightful instance. Haydn, you sense, would have nodded in approval.
Slow movements tend to be clear-eyed and smartly paced. Taking 4'13" to the Gaspard’s 3'16", the Vienna Piano Trio find a gentle pathos in the A minor Andante of No 32 where the Gaspard are edgy, emphasising Haydn’s staccato bass lines. In similar contrast, No 38’s bare-textured D minor Andante is almost aggressively spiky from the Gaspard. Slyly timing Haydn’s pauses and harmonic sideslips, the Gaspard are in their element in the antic finale of No 20; and cultivating a raw, even raucous tone, they transform themselves into a gypsy band in No 32’s Hungarian polonaise finale. It’s hugely entertaining. Both the Beaux Arts and the Vienna Piano Trio sound distinctly urbane by comparison.
For each volume of their Haydn series the Gaspard will commission a short work that takes its cue from one of the trios on the disc. It’s a neat idea, though I have to say that the repeated loop of Johannes Julius Fischer’s One Bar Wonder, based obsessively on the first phrase of No 20, set my teeth on edge long before the end. But don’t let this subjective reaction put you off an album of joyous, imaginative music-making that whets the appetite for future instalments."
- Gramophone (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
No less impressive are their account of the first movement of the A major Trio Hob.18, with its mysterious central development section; and their evocative interpretation of the siciliano-like slow movement from the D major Hob.7.
- Classical Music Magazine (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"From the opening notes of the A major Trio the Gaspard Trio make an immediate impact with absorbing rhythmic vitality and impeccable musicianship. I am fast becoming a fan of the Gaspard Trio, they always produce engaging performances and this disc is no exception. The interplay between Jonian Ilias Kadesha (violin), Vashti Mimosa Hunter (cello) and Nicholas Rimmer (piano) is flawless, graceful and captivating.
Haydn has been central to the repertoire of the Trio since its inception. Nicholas Rimmer notes: “we have decided to record the trios neither chronologically nor in the groups in which they were first published. Instead we have aimed to create an interesting and contrasted ‘programme’ of trios for each volume, so that it can be listened to in a single, satisfying sitting.”
Trio Gaspard asked a composer to write a short work inspired by one of the trios from each volume and percussionist and composer Johannes Fischer contribute one bar wonder. It takes the somewhat provocative repetition of the ritornello in the andante of Haydn’s Piano Trio XV 7 humorously to another level with its delightful pauses focusing only on the first couple of seconds of this movement bringing it to a sudden end.
There are wonderful little touches from the lyrical, crisp playing caught so well by the recording engineers.
Phrasing is sublime, the lightness of touch polished, and the overall performance sophisticated and classy.
Without doubt the Gaspard Trio has produced in this first volume, a more than satisfying performance, more nourishing our souls with the beauty of Haydn’s contributions to the genre demonstrating his lyrical writing with playing that is well-balanced and expressive."
- Andrew Palmer, North East Post (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"The sprightly Allegro Moderato of the A Major Trio (Hob. XV: 18) shows each member of the ensemble creating clean lines that sync well. The idiomatic elegance, too, is preserved with some lovely shades of piano and a forte that is full but in no way heavy. In the Andante (track 3), the switch between melodic and accompanimental roles within each instrument is seamless and drives an engaging conversation between all parts. The middle A-major section radiates warmth; violinist Jonian Kadesha lends expressive arcs to his phrases that complement his resonant sound."
- Azusa Ueno, The Classic Review, July 2022 (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"It’s truly a delight, and leaves this listener hungry for more ... There’s much to applaud in this new exploration of the piano trios"
- The Strad, July 2022 (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"The top-ranking players of Trio Gaspard (from Germany, Britain and Greece) cherish Haydn’s every twist and turn, and cellist Vashti Hunter never seems downhearted at spending much of her time in pianist Nicholas Rimmer’s shadow. The musicians’ brio and colourful attack even make pleasant listening out of the album’s little contemporary encore, Johannes Julius Fischer’s One Bar Wonder, though I hope they’ll understand if I don’t regularly revisit a work where one bar of Haydn is subjected to 34 slowly degrading repetitions."
- David Threasher, The Times, July 2022 (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"What a wonderful idea. To group each volume in this new complete survey of Haydn’s Piano Trios not chronologically but in a way that provides a satisfying listening experience in one sitting, yes. But especially to commission a new short work inspired by one of the trios in each program. In this case, it’s Johannes Julius Fischer’s hilarious “one bar wonder” – a loopy loop inspired by the Andante from Haydn’s Piano Trio No 20 in D...
...Here, violin, cello and piano, by turns star and accompany, stand out and support; or trio in true concertante style."
- Will Yeoman, Limelight Magazine, July 2022 (Haydn: Complete Piano Trios, Vol 1 album review)
"The young "Trio Gaspard" fills the Martinstadl with vitality and esprit in the chamber music cycle."
"This generous, natural-sounding recording was made in Potton Hall last summer. Guest soloist Katharina Konradi is not easily pigeonholed. The first internationally recognised soprano from Kyrgyzstan, she left for Germany in her teens and may be most familiar to UK readers as a past BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. A previous recital disc for the AVI-Music label offered relatively conventional fare: Richard Strauss, Mozart and Schubert. Here she joins Trio Gaspard, migrants from the same label who hail from Germany, Greece and the UK. Recently signed to Chandos, the group is intent on setting down every Haydn piano trio and more besides. The repertoire this time is different, Russian in the broadest, Putinesque sense. To quote from the accompanying note: ‘Here we have indigenous roots, roots recalled by exiles (Gubaidulina, Auerbach), roots brought in (Weinberg), and roots transplanted out (Beethoven), all producing their own particular fruits and flowers. Perhaps what is enduringly Russian about them is that, enjoying a vast geography, they have all been contained – and often constrained – by the country’s history.’ Paul Griffiths is responsible for that elegant attempt to validate the selection.
In almost every respect the programme is a success. The Beethoven folk-song settings of 1816 might look something of an outlier, with Auerbach’s nostalgic, bite-size Postscriptum (performed in a version for wordless voice, cello and piano) the one 21st-century item. Both prove delightful. The players’ sympathy with a range of styles is well established and Konradi’s idiomatic Russian (first of her many languages) is an obvious asset. She might best be described as a lyric soprano with added sparkle, turning up the Slavic vibrancy where required with no hint of shrillness. Her voice is a good deal lighter and more crystalline than we are used to in Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, where older listeners may miss the darker heft of Galina Vishnevskaya. The results are certainly easier on the ear and more precisely pitched when the music goes into overdrive. Of the shorter songs without words, Stravinsky’s early Pastorale, often performed in transcription as a deadpan harbinger of neoclassicism, recovers a certain sensuality. Less successful is a reimagining of Rachmaninov’s oft-arranged Vocalise. With three instruments dropping in and out, the composer’s seamless phrasing of an essentially binary conversation is undermined. By contrast Weinberg’s wartime songs, the first and last sung to ‘la’, work just fine in a version by the cellist Alexander Oratovsky effected in 2004.
A purely instrumental interlude in the form of Shostakovich’s First Piano Trio may not thrill Konradi fans but it’s a fine account of an early piece that exhibits many of the composer’s – and Russia’s – aesthetic paradoxes. The essential full texts and occasionally garbled translations are provided. Strongly recommended."
- David Gutman, Gramophone, February 2022 ("Russian Roots" album review)
"The three young musicians (two men, one woman) did this by letting the sounds flow unforcedly, even relaxed, despite all their expressiveness. The sweetness of the violin (Jonas Ilias Kadesha) and the melt of the cello (Vashti Hunter) hopefully combined with the sometimes ethereally tinkling, sometimes romantically stretched piano sound of Nicholas Rimmer to a euphony, which in turn told various stories, both mystical and sensual.
Conversely, in Mendelssohn's incredibly vital Trio No. 2, the passion carried to the extreme over a wide area turned into the stillness of a prayer, where violin and cello increased their tone from spellbound calm to excited vibrato in an intimate dialogue. The ensemble itself thus became the most important discovery of the entire programme."
- Luzerner Zeitung, January 2022