Beethoven, Schubert: Piano Trio, Op. 97 (Archduke)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Schubert
LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
WORKS: Piano Trio, Op. 97 (Archduke)
PERFORMER: Alfred Cortot (piano), Jacques Thibaud (violin), Pablo Casals (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 66986 2 ADD mono Reissue (1928, 1926)
Schubert poured into his two piano trios that lyrical essence that also so distinguished his sonatas and other chamber works. Schumann described the B flat major Trio, officially the first, as passive and feminine, but its strengths are also evident in the swinging rhythms of the main theme, highlighted in this 1926 recording by the presence of Casals’s thrusting cello. Cortot’s refined accompaniments cushion the music from imbalance; and though Thibaud rarely has the chance to shine except in duet with Casals, the profound musicality of their intertwining counterpoints is a joy to hear.

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Cortot takes more glory in Beethoven’s Archduke, initiating with craftsmanly ease the magisterial moods of the opening Allegro moderato and the hymn-like third movement. Truly one of EMI’s ‘Recordings of the Century’, the disc has recorded sound both worthily restored and able to stand beside later historical recordings: that of Heifetz, Feuermann and Rubinstein in the Beethoven, for example, no less than beside a modern benchmark pairing of the two pieces. Nicholas Williams