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Great Chamber Music Recordings

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 20, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Trio Cortot - Thibaud - Casals (1926-1927)

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These recordings of the trio consisting of Alfred Cortot, Pablo Casals, and Jacques Thibaud, three of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, were made in 1926 and 1927. So the style of playing may seem dated to some, and others may have qualms about vintage sound. Fear not, though; the performances are full of insight and vitality, and Ward Marston's amazing transfers make them sound freshly scrubbed. The minimal surface noise shouldn't deter; it's the price for pristine highs such as those we hear in the natural sound of Thibaud's sweet, singing violin in the andante cantabile movement of the Haydn. The odd Beethoven work is masterly, too, with a gravely expressive introduction and a fun-filled set of variations made to order for the three virtuosos. The big work here is the Schubert Trio, in which this ensemble continues to amaze with their flawless phrasing and emotional commitment. Their phrasing of the Andante's gorgeous theme will melt your heart. These classic performances should be in every collection, and they're irresistible at Naxos's budget price. --Dan Davis
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Product Details

  • Performer: Alfred Cortot
  • Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz [Vienna] Schubert
  • Audio CD (August 20, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • ASIN: B000069CV4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,737 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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In their 50th year now, The Beaux Arts Trio has achieved legendary status for their crisp, elegant, and polished playing and adherence to the spirit of the music. Pianist Menahem Pressler (the last remaining original member) finesefully drives the music forward with his deft and articulate keyboard work that is always marvelously alive and bouyant. His style has an attractive lyrical quality to it which blends marvously with the two strings whose playing is of the highest caliber. It doesn't seem the Beaux Arts Trio recorded many "duds" as far as I can tell, and this excellent 5-CD set is no exception. And while their classy playing might project a slightly more refined than dramatic Beethoven here, such a style is well suited to the classical-era style of these earlier works prior to 1805 and Beethoven's slow-but-sure departure from classical forms and mannerisms.

Part of this more 'classical Beethoven' found in most of the trios here is partly because of the genre. The piano trio genre was not the place Beethoven experimented or "went all out" - as he did in his symphonies, quartets and piano sonatas - but more a genre he wrote to sell music (although the empassioned C-minor trio of Opus 1 seems more written for Beethoven's own expression). In the late 1700's, the piano trio was a popular combination for the home music market for many a Vieneese amatuer. Also, it was common and in demand for composers and publishers to transpose popular orchestral works down to the piano trio (such as the two in this set) for this market of paying customers. What was also a trend then was including the themes of the latest "pop music" people were humming around town in theme & variation movements, which is seen here in some of the trios in this 5-CD set.
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This is a newly released [budget] set containing the Beaux Arts Trio's second traversal of all of Beethoven's piano trios, plus some interesting oddities such as the trio based on Beethoven's Second Symphony. I recently acquired this 5 CD collection and am quite impressed by the warm, vibrant playing from the Beaux Arts Trio: pianist Menachem Pressler, cellist Bernard Greenhouse and violinist Isidore Cohen. Although some critics contend that the Beaux Arts Trio's 1960's version is more riveting than their late 1970's/early 1980's version, I find the latter quite compelling on its own. The playing is absolutely first rate, replete with much warmth and empathy for Beethoven's scores. The sound quality is also fine, even if it doesn't feature Philips' latest digital image bit remastering.
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The piano is not balanced with the violin and cello, it drowns them out. The violin at times is quite muted and the cello is often indistinct. Listen to the samples critically before buying. I found the same problem on another Philips set of Haydn Piano Trios.
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By Gio on September 22, 2009
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I used to listen to the Beethoven piano trios on LPs, the original releases by the Beaux arts Trio (Presler, Cohen, Greenhouse). It was 'in-house' wisdom that those were the standard of interpretation. I was satisfied enough to have replaced the LPs with the complete-box re-release of CDs three or four years ago. I don't want to say that I'm suddenly dissatisfied with the Beaux Arts performances. I'm not. They remain the standard of excellence for performance on modern piano and strings.

Nevertheless, the recording of Haydn's Last Four Piano Trios by Robert Levin, Anner Bylsma, and Vera Beths impressed me as such a revelation that I hastened to buy this CD of Beethoven's two most popular piano trios, to see what difference the historical instruments might make. The keyboardist on this CD is Jos van Immerseel in place of Robert Levin. I played this and my older recording "back to back", movement by movement, Opus 70 #1 first and then Opus 97. Quite an afternoon of listening pleasure!

Most people living in the 19th Century, Beethoven's contemporaries and their heirs, would have made their acquaintance with Beethoven's music from the page, from playing it themselves rather than hearing it in a concert hall. That would have been especially true of chamber works like these piano trios; in many cases, we know exactly for whom Beethoven composed such music, who played it first, etc. We know some of the occasions when Beethoven himself played the fortepiano (he NEVER played the instrument we call a piano today), often with members of the household on the violin and cello. Such music was written for elegant pleasure, for shared entertainment in the salons of the wealthy.
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I read some good reviews on this CD set so I decided to buy it. At first I thought it was great, but after listening to the CDs a couple of times, I was not so thrilled. The playing of many of the trios by Beaux Arts is very slow and seems to lack any spark or inspiration. This is especially apparent to me in the Archduke trio. They grind along soooooo slow. It feels like the players are stuck in mud! Beethoven was known for his bold music, but Beaux Arts seem to think that it is elevator music. I agree with some of the other reviewers about the recording levels. The piano is often too loud, and the cello is hardly ever heard unless it has a solo. The violin sometimes sounds shrill. I would suggest people get a recording that has more inspired playing and better sound mixing.
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