This disc, recorded in 2002, juxtaposes two contrasting period of Beethoven's trio writing. The Archduke trio is a work of his maturity but the remaining two works on the disc originate from much earlier in his career. The playing on this disc is of the utmost excellence as is the recording. This has long been the default expectation of discs made by this trio and in that they have never failed. This disc simply continues that established 'tradition.'
The Archduke trio offers quite a contrast to the well respected version by Askkenazy, Perlman and Harrell on Decca. Theirs is a much more high powered version with an emphasis on drama. The projection offered is very much that of a substantial concert hall and seems to have been conceived on that scale. It is a very fine reading in that way and is also well recorded.
The Florestan trio, on the other hand, offer a less dramatic view with the emphasis on light and shade, fleetness and quicksilver detailing. The projection offered is more akin to a more intimate setting and obviously more 'chamber' in feel.
The Allegretto is believed to date from about 1790 and as such can be described as a short and early work - small but perfectly formed you might say. The variations is a more substantial composition. This, despite its late opus number, probably dates from around 1794. The variations are based on a song by Wenzel Muller and from his singspiel 'I am Kakadu the tailor. Beethoven offered his variation for publication in 1816 describing it as one of his earlier compositions. The reason for its revival was probably the revival of Muller's songspiel at about that time and this would be an easy way of capitalising on that.
This disc certainly deserves to be considered seriously by anyone interested by the program. It is also worth mentioning the the whole set of the trios is now available as a boxed set and which may be even more attractive. They are all of equal merit.