One of the more disingenuous lines of ad copy attached to RCA's Kapell Edition has got to be that "[Kapell] was able to attract the finest artists to him." Well, sure, but it probably didn't hurt that the artists Kapell "attracted" were also under contract to RCA. And while no one would argue with a description of violinist Jascha Heifetz or violist William Primrose as being among the finest artists, cellist Edmund Kurtz might not rank among everybody's short list.
Be that as it may, the Kapell-Primrose collaboration on the Brahms Viola Sonata in F minor is beyond all argument, superb. Primrose plays the piece with a warm-hearted tone and open-hearted interpretation, and Kapell doesn't so much followRead more Primrose as wrap himself around him like a comfortable sweater. Less convincing is the Kapell-Heifetz performance of the Brahms Violin Sonata in D minor, especially if you have an antipathy toward Heifetz's playing in general and his Brahms playing in particular. Heifetz is simply too hard-hearted and unyielding for Brahms. And Kapell himself seems uncomfortable with Heifetz's interpretation: rather than a comfortable sweater, Kapell sounds like a too-tight straitjacket.
The surprise of this volume of the Kapell Edition is Edmund Kurtz. While not in the same league as RCA's house cellist Piatgorsky, Kurtz turns in a driven yet expansive performance of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata. Together with Kapell's vigorous piano playing, Kurtz turns in nearly as fine a performance of the Rachmaninov as is imaginable. One of the more interesting volumes in the Kapell Edition.