A magnificent cycle - superb interpretations that haven't been superseded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 Beaux Arts Trio performs all of this music with their customary musicality and expertise - David Hurwitz
If these performances of Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios by Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Lynn Harrell are suave and sophisticated with a soupçon of sentimentality, well, that's what modern performance practice was like in the '80s. And if that sounds like an appealing manner in which to perform Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios, this is the recording to hear. Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell lean into Beethoven's music, singing everything grandly, sounding everything gloriously, and souping everything up completely. One might argue that Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 1, are too Viennese High Classical to respond well to their approach, that the works seem more maimed and mauled then persuasively performed, but one cannot deny that Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell put every iota of their expressivity and virtuosity into their overpowering performances. EMI's early digital sound has been pleasantly remastered for this CD reissue.