The Beaux Arts Trio performs all of this music with their customary musicality and expertise - David Hurwitz
A magnificent cycle - superb interpretations that haven't been superseded
The Beethoven piano trios have been at the hub of the Beaux Arts Trio's repertoire throughout its long history. Despite a series of personnel switches, the group's approach to Beethoven has remained outstandingly consistent for more than 40 years. The first ever Beaux Arts Beethoven set is currently available in Philips' "The Early Years" series. It was produced during the mid-1960s and did not include transcriptions of the Op. 20 Septet or Second symphony. When Isador Cohen replaced founding violinist Daniel Guilet in 1968, the group (which also included the pianist Menahem Pressler, longest serving member of the ensemble, and cellist Bernard Greenhouse) would not return to Beethoven for another decade.
The Beethoven piano trios have been at the hub of the Beaux Arts Trio’s repertoire throughout its long history.
After Bach, I think the compositional style of Johannes Brahms must be the most individually recognisable - at least in respect of his mature works; less so in the case of earlier compositions like the string sextets. However, these Piano Quartets are chock-full of typically Brahmsian melody and harmonic invention so that almost from the first bar, we readily are able to establish the composer's identity. Another reviewer has mentioned the density of Brahms's writing. Nowhere is this more evident than in these works which have absolutely no fat or padding on them; every note has a particular purpose within the structure of the whole. Nevertheless, in most of these quartets, Brahms does hint at the exposition of a subject which might become one of his grand melodic set-pieces but after only a passing nod at development, the idea fizzles out. But before we can sense any disappointment, we are caught up in his next scheme. This is so very characteristic of this great composer. The Beaux Arts Trio, ably augmented by Walter Trampler's viola, play to their customarily high standard with the recordings (from 1973) also being good.
As a glance at the above will show, this is not the old Beaux Arts version, for whose restoration I made a plea two years ago, but a new digital account recorded with their new cellist, Peter Wiley and in a different acoustic The Maltings, Snape. In their old version they omitted the fugue (Var. 8), a practice sanctioned by the score (the Borodin on Chandos curiously enough, cut out the variation preceding it) but this time round the players restore it. However, they do make the traditional cut in the finale (bar 9 of page 86 to bar 4 of page 102 Eulenburg score).
Mozart wrote a plethera of fine chamber music in the galante style of the classical era: Quintets for various instruments, string quartets, string trios, string duos, piano trios, violin sonatas and the two magnificent piano quartets here. With these two quartets, Mozart more-or-less invented the genre which was later taken up by Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak. These piano quartets show Mozart in both a dramatic mode in the minor work and a typical merry mood in the major piece.