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Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809) Trio in G Major
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Variations on Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major
Jacques Thibaud, violin, Pablo Casals, cello, Alfred Cortot, piano
Historical recordings: Haydn: June 20, 1927 at Queen’s Hall, London; Beethoven, July 6, 1926 at Kingsway Hall, London; Schubert, July 5-6, 1926 at Kingsway Hall, London. All original recordings made by HMV. Remastered and restored by Ward Marston. ADD


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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 artists.

Kevin Sutton


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