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Beethoven for Three, volume III. Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax – CD Review, 30th May 2024

Ludwig van Beethoven - Part II of the Piano Trio op. 97 in B flat major "The Archduke"; Fourth Symphony op. 60 in B flat major, arranged by Shai Wosner.

On March 15th, 2024, the third volume in the series dedicated to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven was released by pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Yo-Yo Ma - three top musicians of the world who have successfully collaborated over time. Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma have been singing together for over 50 years and have won two Grammy Awards together, and in 2021 they released an acclaimed album of Sonatas for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. As for Leonidas Kavakos, he joined the two musicians mentioned above in 2014, on the stage of the Tanglewood Festival and three years later for the recording of the Johannes Brahms Piano Trios. Therefore, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma form a trio with experience, homogeneity and proficiency, some qualities that we can also admire by listening to the recordings from the "Beethoven for Three" collection. They transpose us into the atmosphere of 19th century music, when the audience of aristocratic salons was used to transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies for various instrumental ensembles. Like the two previous discs, released by the same label, Sony Classical, the third volume blurs the traditional boundaries between orchestral and chamber music. The recent album brings together the Piano Trio op. 97, "The Archduke" and the 4th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged by Shai Wosner for piano, violin and cello.

This collection has its origins in the 2021 Tanglewood Music Festival, where pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in chamber arrangement for the first time. Their performance was a resounding success and soon the recordings of Beethoven's symphonies began. The three musicians highlight the essential elements of the musical language specific to this composer. Also, the instrumental arrangements give a poetic breath and intimacy to the symphonies that do not detract from their character and expressive force.

Cellist Yo Yo Ma says: "We all feel it. It's wonderful to be able to participate in the performance of a symphony. One of the really important things these days is a return to the first principles of music, the simple interaction between friends who want to make music together." The amazing artistic and human connection between the three performers can be felt in these recordings, made in August 2023, in New York.

Larisa Clempuș