PLEYEL Keyboard Trios B435; 441; 442; 448
Though Ignace Pleyel may be better known to us as a maker of pianos and music publisher, he was a prolific and much-respected composer in his time, a pupil of Haydn with more than 40 symphonies, 80 string quartets and 50 piano trios to his name. And if that implies fecundity over substance, think again: there is much to delight in the four works presented here, with charm, virtuosity and vivaciousness in abundance.
The use of period instruments gives a pleasing airiness to textures. But it can also bring its own problems and there are times when the violin timbre tends towards the raw end of the spectrum (such as in the delightfully characterful Rondo ecossois of the A major Trio, B448, and the Allegro of the E minor Trio, B435). There is also a tendency to emphasise the rhetoric of the music at the expense of the forward flow, notably in the slightly fussy phrasing of the Adagio non troppo of the C major work, B441, a tender set of variations with a particularly beautiful minor variation spotlighting the cello, more of which could have been made here. Perhaps that is down to the recorded balance: though the piano-writing dominates in these pieces, the instrument itself is arguably too far forward in the mix, and up close there’s sometimes a metallic edge to its tone in accented passages, such as the opening movement of the E minor Trio. An enterprising release, none the less, rounded off by fascinating booklet-notes that flesh out this unduly neglected figure.