Sunday, 5 January 2014

Two Great Piano Trio Recordings

Four major string players playing together do not make for a great performance of a string quartet. However, piano trios often bloom when three major players get together. I have just been listening with enormous pleasure to the famous 1926 recording of Schubert's B flat piano trio played by Cortot, Thibaud and Casals, a legendary recording of the past very well restored by Ward Marston (for Naxos). These three played together regularly, and all three lived in Paris and had similar musical strengths. A recording to enjoy until the end of time, with a sound that still holds up well some 88 (!) years later. The primary adjective for this kind of playing is: elegant (also in the G major Haydn trio on the same Naxos CD).

A similar great historical success was the Tchaikovsky A minor piano trio recorded in 1952 by Gilels, Kogan and Rostropovich. The three musicians all lived in Moscow and played together regularly (until, like the Parisian three, politics broke them up). The Tchaikovsky still awaits satisfactory audio restoration -- Russian recording techniques were not great in the 1950s -- though the DoReMi transfers are not too bad. Perhaps Pristine Audio will come forward one day. But Gilels, Kogan and Rostropovich playing Tchaikovsky is really very, very special.

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