Magnificent Beethoven rarely matched
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 08/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With an aside to the Suk Trio's out of print recording of Beethoven's pair of Op. 70 trios, this recording featuring Pablo Casals, Eugene Istomin, Joseph Fuchs and Alexander Schneider is one of the most magnificent recordings ever made of this staggeringly successful music.
Casals, Istomin and Fuchs perform the Op. 70 No. 1 -- or "Ghost" -- trio, known that for its ghostly rumblings in the central largo. Recorded in 1953 in Prades, these are hardly old-time versions of this terrific music. Compared to the way performers play today, it has warmth, humanity and gradations in volume and pacing you wouldn't expect. These are hardly old-time attributes, however, anymore than singing with vibrato in the Beethoven 9th Symphony is an old time attribute. The 1951 recording holds up very well today.
My favorite performance on this CD is the Casals-Istomin-Schneider collaboration of the Trio No. 6 -- Op. 70, No. 2. I first heard this music on the car radio one morning at about 2:30 A.M. driving home from a drive-in movie about 20 years ago. That recording featured the Suk Trio, the only group I'd say surpasses this one in the score. I ran out and bought that CD immediately and have kept it in my library ever since. This version is the only one I've heard in two decades that really challenges the authority of the Suk Trio. Why some enterprising company does not buy the rights to the Suk Trio's Beethoven trios and re-release them is one of my greatest unanswered questions about classical music in 2008.
The cherry on top in this recording is the Casals-Rudlf Serkin reading of "12 Variations on a Theme from Handel's Judas Maccabeus", another of my favorite Beethoven chamber pieces for cello and piano. Recorded in 1951, it sound astonishingly good in this transfer. So does everything else on this recording save for an occasionally glassy sound from the piano. If you are the type of collector that can only listen to a modern recording to get a complete experience in music like this, you should look elsewhere. Good luck finding this kind of artistry there, however."