Poster Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio
The Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio presents its recording of Beethoven's complete piano trios.
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Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio presents Beethoven's complete piano trios

New Classical Tracks (Extended Interview) - Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio
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New Classical Tracks - Mark Kaplan
New Classical Tracks - Mark Kaplan

Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio – Beethoven: Complete Piano Trios (Bridge)

“I've been playing trios for decades,” says Mark Kaplan, violinist for the Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio. “I also have a background in physics and a background in pastry cooking, which has been occupying most of the last 24 hours.”

Kaplan teaches at the Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, alongside his trio partner cellist Peter Stumpf.  Their pianist, Yael Weiss, grew up in Israel and is now in New York City focusing on her solo career. Collectively, they’re the Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio, and they recently recorded all of the Beethoven trios for the first time.

Why are these trios so significant in the classical repertoire?

Weiss: “This is, to me, the most significant body of works for piano trio, both in terms of just the number of works, but also, of course, in terms of their variety. We have early Beethoven, middle Beethoven with the Opus 70 trios, which includes the Ghost Trio, and then late Beethoven. And that's a incredible journey.

“We had the opportunity before we even thought about recording all three CDs to perform the complete cycle of the Beethoven trios, which we did in Israel many years ago. And having done that, I think the opportunity to keep playing those works, to keep rehearsing them, to delve more deeply into them through preparing them for recordings, was something that was very, very special for for all of us and really helped us define who we are as a group and grow our identity as an ensemble.”

Peter, you mentioned how the cellist has a more independent role in these works. Can you talk about the innovations that Beethoven incorporated into these trios?

Stumpf: “In Beethoven, it begins with the Opus 1, where it's more focused on the bass with occasional solo lines and some inner voices and some counterpoint.

“As it goes on, it becomes more soloistic and more in harmony with the violin. It also starts to go higher into the upper ranges of the cello. And so when you get to Opus 70 and the Archduke, he actually goes quite high.”

You are three independent voices within these trios, and yet your job is to be subtly integrated. That requires incredible listening. How do you go about finding the proper balance?

Kaplan: “The idea of three voices that complement each other is something that has to do with how we get along. A lot of our trio rehearsal time is not spent playing or spent arguing about whether should we make the crescendos starting from the C-sharp or from the E.

“Peter tends to arrive at a rehearsal with a cup of coffee. So we may ask, what did he have with the coffee that morning? We spend a fair amount of time doing what seems like wasting time, but it's actually very germane to our work process.”

Returning to the Beethoven trios specifically, where do we hear that ensemble dynamic on this recording?

Stumpf: “The one that I know puts me in that high-frequency awareness zone is the slow movement of the Ghost where we're holding these notes for a very long time and we have to change exactly together. That's what I'm talking about, that sort of magnetic field or something.”

Resources

Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio – Beethoven: Complete Piano Trios (Amazon)

Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio – Beethoven: Complete Piano Trios (Bridge)

Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio (official site)

Mark Kaplan (official site)

Yael Weiss (official site)

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