Beethoven-Piano Trios Nos. 2 and 5 (Ghost Trio)—Storioni Trio (PentaTone) [SACD/CD]

Isn't it a little odd to squeeze a whole symphony orchestra into a living room? The great thing about chamber music is that it's designed to be played in the home, correctly scaled to your personal space. It's best heard live, of course-but, if you can't invite musicians over for tea, the next best thing might be to feed your universal disc player this well-recorded pair of Beethoven chamber works.

A piano trio is essentially a tiny string section-just violin and cello-mated with a piano. Beethoven was the first composer to exploit its potential as a miniature orchestra, and his second and fifth trios are as fully developed as Schubert and Brahms' later and more celebrated trios. The highlights of this set are the slow Adagio that opens Trio No. 2 and the slightly spooky Largo of No. 5, which gives it the nickname of "Geistertrio" (the "Ghost Trio").

The Storioni Trio of Amsterdam takes its name from the 18th-century violin maker. This 2004 recording makes full use of SACD's dynamic range. Better yet, it fully engages the center channel, providing a true 5.1-channel soundstage. The acoustic ambience is subtle enough that it doesn't impair the trio's carefully blended instrumental tone. You can actually hear the walls in this recording, and that can only help. After all, what good would a chamber-music recording be without the sound of the chamber?

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