The D major Trio, not issued here before, was recorded in 1961 in France. It's not of the same interest, as a performance, as the Archduke, and indeed as a document of the artistry of Casals, then in his 85th year, it seems to me unimportant. For much of the time the Players sound vaguely uncomfortable with each other, and with the music. Tempos in the outer movements are moderate, without fire; the dynamic range and the contrasts of dynamics asked for by Beethoven are haphazardly met; Vegh's intonation is a worry and in bar 73 of the slow movement worse than that; Casals moans; a view of the piece is rarely in focus for long. This sort of thing might put some people off 'legendary classics', or at any rate historical non-vocals, forRead more life.
Skip to track 4, however, and you are in a different world. Here is a spacious, inspired performance of the Archduke which only great artists could have brought off, sure of their vision and ability to sustain long-range musical thinking. A first impression might be that the playing is under projected but I do not think it is. The sound is inviting and, if you approach, the eloquence makes itself felt. It is a reflective performance and I like the Archduke done this way. If you prefer a more public manner, with stronger contrasts, look elsewhere. The detail is very good here, however as well as the long breath, and this is not one of those unhurried readings where you feel that for about 25 minutes in the slow movement nothing much is going on. Most remarkable of all, I think, is the playing of Horszowski, the man whose quiet authority some people will notice least. What did Beethoven mean by the marking of dolce so frequently encountered here? Horszowski will show you, as few pianists can. Casals matches him in this, and it is the kind of performance which affords you these rare insights. The great man, though having a bit of trouble with the high-lying stuff in the finale, was still playing pretty well in 1958. The sound is good, though with the strings too forward for my taste, a little. The Philips NoNoise remastering technique has certainly brought a more than acceptable result.
-- Stephen Plaistow,
Gramophone [11/1988] Read less