Prompted by a commission from a London publisher, Haydn took up the composition of piano trios, that is, sonatas for keyboard accompanied by violin and cello, on a grand scale in 1784.
By that time, piano trios had become extremely popular with ‘amateurs’ (Liebhaber) – non-professionals from the aristocracy and the upper bourgeoisie – and their composition promised financial success. The piano carries the main burden of the compositional substance in these works and always forms the centre of the instrumental texture, around which the violin and cello are grouped. The tasks assigned to the stringed instruments are less structural than colouristic, although Haydn frequently allows the violin to break free from the piano part, entrusting it with independent ideas and sometimes allowing it to engage in dialogue with the piano.
Since forming in the late ’80s, Trio Wanderer have—with only one change of personnel—become one of the finest piano trios on the concert circuit. Surprisingly, they’ve recorded little Haydn, so this album is very welcome. The French trio have a lovely spring in their musical step and Haydn suits them to perfection. Fast movements flash past in a spirit of sheer delight while the slower ones are savored but never milked, and their tightly focused, well-balanced sound and restrained use of vibrato is very attractive.