In 1905, three musical friends who would later become
giants as soloists came together to form a piano trio. After their initial
successes, they reserved time each year from their hectic individual
careers to meet in London or Paris to play chamber music. Their musical
relationship lasted another twenty-nine years, with the three playing
together for the last time in 1934. Although their repertoire was relatively
small (only thirty-three works were programmed by the trio during their
entire existence), they left behind a handful of recordings, that, more
than seventy years on, are still benchmarks, and continue to garner
enough sales to keep them alive in the catalog.
Naxos have scored yet another coup by landing the services
of Ward Marston, to produce and restore the recordings in this series.
The award-winning sound engineer has become a legend in his own time,
resurrecting hundreds of historical recordings and rendering them not
only listenable, but also remarkably enjoyable to our digitally accustomed
ears. The man is a veritable miracle worker, and these famous recordings
are no exception.
It is somewhat difficult to critique a set of recordings
that have been around for so long. That these performances are still
viable on the market, and that interest is still strong after such a
long shelf life speaks more about their quality than anything that I
could opine. It goes without saying that these are fine recordings.
The two larger works on this disc were the war-horses
of this ensemble’s repertoire, having been programmed more than any
other pieces in their minimal set list. Of particular delight here is
the Haydn G major, which is tossed off with incredible joie de vivre
and panache. Period instrument freaks could learn quite a bit from this
sparkling performance, which is delivered with refinement and elegance,
and at near perfect tempi. The Schubert B-flat is a tour de force, with
a give and take between the players that is just phenomenal. It is rare
that one can hear such perfect ensemble playing.
The Beethoven variations are a tasty little morsel;
alas, the original master discs suffered from some technical flaws,
and even a wizard like Marston was hard pressed to come up with a clean
sounding reproduction. Nonetheless, this is a jewel that stands nicely
despite the technical problems, and is a welcome addition to the recorded
repertoire of this fine trio.
If you are one of those "digital only" types
who can’t abide it if it was not recorded yesterday, then this disc
is not for you. If, however, you appreciate first rate playing by legends
of the art, then grab this and all the others in the series by the same