In the age of Argerich, who brings tightrope-walker tension to chamber music, I doubt that anyone plays the Brahms piano trios with the kind of mellow lushness heard here. Katchen's conception of Brahms was large-scaled but smooth, warm without much psychological struggle. Suk was a honey-toned violinist, and although Starker was the modernist among the three, what's notable here is how perfectly in unison he is with Suk (and blissfully in tune). Decca puts the piano in the middle and the string players close up in their own channels left and right. The result is wide-screen and artificial, of course, since it makes the cello sound as loud as the piano. but the sonic effect is quite luscious.
I've saved my remarks about te interpretations for last. The Brahms trios have attracted great collaborations, and I wouldn't place this one above, say, Istomin-Stern-Rose although it runs ahead of the Beaux Art Trio, for sheer beauty of tone if nothing else. The shortcoming here is a tendency toward cautiousness; these are middle-of-the-road readings that don't capture Brahms' deepest passions. He is placed in the sun too often. But the first two trios aren't sturm and drang works. If you want large-scale performances caught in gorgeous sound, here you go.
–Amazon.com [4 stars] reviewer
Jean Roger-Ducasse was born in Bordeaux on 18 April 1873. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1892 and in 1895, along with Ravel, joined the composition class of Gabriel Faure. In 1902 he won the second Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata Alcyone, with Ravel gaining fourth prize. He had a very active role in musical life in Paris founding the Societe Musicale Independante in 1909 and gaining the position of inspector general for the teaching of singing in Paris schools in 1910.
This set is a remarkable bargain, containing all of Brahms's solo piano music, including such chips from his workshop as cadenzas for other composers' concertos and a series of strictly mechanical piano studies that nobody will want to listen through. No matter. Idil Biret has a firm grasp of Brahms's idiom, and she plays with insight and passion throughout the set. Although she doesn't startle with her virtuosity, she handles the considerable technical demands of the music with great confidence.
Russia in the nineteenth century had little need for chamber music - no Parisian-style competitive quartetting here. But out of this very isolation came a small, but nonetheless mighty, handful of works: those by Borodin are among the finest. Piers Lane and the Goldner String Quartet revel in what they find.