Brahms: Piano Trios

Brahms: The Piano Trios
Beaux Arts Trio
Philips 416 838 (2 CDs)

Contents:

    Piano Trio No. 1 in B, Op. 8 (1854/1889)
  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Scherzo. Allegro molto
  3. Adagio
  4. Allegro

  5. Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101 (1886)
  6. Allegro energico
  7. Presto non assai
  8. Andante grazioso
  9. Allegro molto
    Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87 (1882)
  1. Allegro
  2. Andante con moto
  3. Scherzo. Presto
  4. Finale. Allegro giocoso

  5. Piano Trio in A, Op.posth. (1853?)
  6. Moderato
  7. Vivace - Trio
  8. Lento
  9. Presto

Perfomers: Menahem Pressler (piano), Isidore Cohen (violin), Bernard Greenhouse (cello)

Playing time: 119'

Recording date: May 1986 (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Suisse)

The notes for this recording spend most of their time lamenting that Brahms left only masterpieces, with so few lesser works and sketches. Well, I am of the opposite mind. I thank Brahms for having some self-restraint, and it's a shame more people can't share it. That said, the posthumous trio is of little interest; it's dirty laundry, as it were.

Among Brahms' early chamber works, the Trio in B is easily my favorite, probably not coincidentally since Brahms substantially revised it in 1889. This is the revised version. The other Trios are straight masterpieces and need no defense.

This recording has been my set of choice, as none of the others were really comparable at the time. These works require a sophisticated interpretation together with a fine sense of ensemble, and so most of the renditions suffer in the details. The only real competition this recording has is the reissued older recordings by the Beaux Arts Trio, which also have their merits in places, but suffer from worse sound. However, the older recordings are more widely available, plus in the 2-for-1 budget series, so they are a natural choice. Nonetheless, I must state that I find the present interpretations superior.

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T. M. McComb