Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra in C major, Op. 56 (1808) [34:48]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102 (1887) [36:25]
Isaac Stern (violin)
Leonard Rose (cello)
Eugene Istomin (piano)
Cleveland Orchestra/Georg Szell
rec. live, 7 October 1969
DOREMI DHR-8047 [71:19]

There’s a familiar-but-not-quite look to this programme. Yes, here are Stern and Rose, but here’s the Cleveland and Szell rather than the studio legacy of the Philadelphia and Ormandy - as well as the additional New York Philharmonic/Bruno Walter in the case of the Brahms. Let’s take that work first.

The parameters of this performance don’t differ markedly from the studio inscriptions nor do they, indeed, from the famous LP Szell made with Oistrakh and Rostropovich. A superficial look at the timings of the finale might imply a heroic dawdling – it seems to last eleven minutes – but that could never be the case with soloists of this inclination, or a master accompanist as gimlet-eyed as Szell. The music actually lasts 8:38, almost the same timing as the Oistrakh-Rostropovich, the rest of the time being taken up with applause and back announcements. Stern’s slides are expressive and convincing, his rapport with his chamber colleague cast-iron by now. Rose plays with great distinction, his elegant, noble tone proving just as creditable here as on the commercial recordings – I happen to prefer the recording with Walter to the Ormandy as it’s more rugged, but it’s a question of choice. Rose’s ruminative, elegiac tonal breadth is finely balanced against Stern’s more silvery tensile tonal qualities and against the taut accompaniment of the Cleveland Orchestra. The winds in the finale sound artificially spotlit – bassoon and clarinet especially – but they make characterful contributions, and rich tapestries of entwining, chamber intimacies. Szell provides enough room for his soloists to breath and altogether this is a splendid addition to the discographies of all three men.

I must admit that my mind often wanders during the Beethoven Triple – doubtless a poor reflection on me. But it didn’t here. This is a truly robust, life-affirming reading, even more spontaneous and kinetic than the studio inscription with Ormandy. Expressive warmth, with deft portamenti to the fore, is part of the emotive arsenal, notably Stern’s. Eugene Istomin, the third of the Musketeers, is well-balanced against his string-playing confreres. The wily Szell knows just how to frame the alla Polacca finale, and here Rose is particularly on song, whilst Istomin’s piano promptings are full of rhythmic impetus and vitality.

There is some high-level hiss but nothing too much to worry about. The two-page booklet notes concern the three soloists and the conductor - but one of the photographs has been enlarged rather badly. Still, the music’s the thing and that’s marvelous.

Jonathan Woolf

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