A magnificent cycle - superb interpretations that haven't been superseded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.
Founded 60 years ago by Menahem Pressler, Daniel Guilet and Bernard Greenhouse, the Beaux Arts Trio performed and recorded exclusively for Philips Classics until 1995. Celebrated for their outstanding chamber-music qualities, the Beaux Arts are one of the greatest ensembles in the history of recorded music. This special 60CD box set includes their extensive discography on Philips Classics and encompasses almost the entire piano trio literature.
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.
The Beethoven piano trios have been at the hub of the Beaux Arts Trio’s repertoire throughout its long history.
Long recognized as the leading piano trio in a competitive field, the Beaux Arts Trio is known for precise, straightforward performances and recordings of everything in the standard Central European trio literature.
In concert, the group makes frequent forays into contemporary and non-mainstream music, but this is hardly evident in its conservative discography.
The Beaux Arts Trio performs all of this music with their customary musicality and expertise - David Hurwitz
As a group the line-up of Menahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, and Bernard Greenhouse at this point was ideal, and perform with a complimentary unity few ensembles ever attain. Their approach is characteristically grand and boldly romantic with judicious tempos and special care taken drawing out Beethoven's wealth of inner detail. Philips sound is also quite good with convincing presence and detail.