The piano trios of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach were originally published (beginning with Wq89 in 1776) with a cumbersome but more apt title: Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Pianoforte accompanied by Violin and Violoncello. And indeed, unlike the trios of Mozart and Beethoven, in which the players share both the duty and the glory, the burden of the main musical line in the Bach works falls on the keyboard player. The cellist often underscores the harmonies while the violinist accentuates thematic material and offers an occasional riposte. The effect is a bit like listening to a gifted but garrulous raconteur, flanked by two admirers who expostulate things like ‘Just so …’ and ‘Indubitably’.
For the sake of brevity, and to connect these prototype trios to the more elaborate and articulated genera that were emerging in the later decades of the 18th century, the Linos Trio call them simply trios. Gathered here are the original six works, designed for the burgeoning milieu of domestic and amateur music-making, and seven more, including the single-movement Arioso with variations from the last set, a melodic and expressive highlight of the collection.
The playing is smart, efficient and alert to Bach’s quicksilver changes of mood and material.
Nevertheless, there is much to admire in the Linos reading, especially the last track, with the gorgeous aria theme and fleetly rendered variations.
This two-disc set also includes the two trio collections Wq90 and 91, published within a year or so of each other, so it offers a better sense of the arc of Bach’s creativity in this nascent but fascinating genre.