Notes and Editorial Reviews
Itzhak Perlman (vn); Barry Tuckwell (hn); Vladimir Ashkenazy (pn)
DECCA 8246, analog (55:37)
Perlman, Ashkenazy—and Tuckwell—recorded the program now re-released as part of the Decca “Originals” series recorded in West Hamstead Studio No. 3 in October 1968; it reappeared during the mid 1980s on CD as London 414 128. It should have appeared, I think, within the seventh volume of
, but I haven’t found it there; in fact, it wasn’t until the 15th volume that anyone (Robert McColley) mentioned this Horn Trio performance in a comparison. Yet I acquired the CD soon after I bought a CD player, and the performance has, I believe, been generally well regarded.
Itzhak Perlman may have been only in his (early) twenties at the time, but he played Franck’s Sonata with a degree of nuance and warmth, of sensitivity and insight, that might serve as models for a younger generation of more anonymous interpreters. His tone, which I found so sumptuous live, appears that way here as well (you can hear it through the original analog recording and the remastering), and his musical ideas sound coherent and cogent—they connect one note to the next with dramatic assurance (I’ve all too often found his playing static, though beautifully conceived). In a note, Ashkenazy remembers this production as his first major effort in chamber music (the English note has unfortunately been truncated, but readers should be able to piece together the text from the complete French and German versions). Those who admire Oistrakh’s propulsiveness with Richter or Perlman’s in a later live reading with Martha Argerich from 1998 should still find much to admire here, if not merely Perlman’s and Ashkenazy’s geniality and the intimacy of their nascent collaboration.
Brahms’s Horn Trio may not be so well represented in recordings as the Franck Sonata has been, but some wonderful moments stand out (even though those performances might not be wholly satisfactory): Szigeti’s collaboration with Barrows and Horszowski from 1959 (which lives in my memory for the haunting anticipation of the finale at the end of the slow movement and for the crisp energy of the Scherzo and finale) and Dennis Brain’s warm account with Max Salpeter and Cyril Preedy. Brahms authorized versions in which viola and cello replace the horn (International Music’s edition includes both these alternatives, though I haven’t had the heart to try them); but, as the original notes by Geoffrey Cranckshaw point out, Brahms’s original horn part is so striking that it’s hard even to imagine those alternatives. Ashkenazy relates that he’d played Brahms’s Second Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1963 and had admired Tuckwell’s solo horn passages. Critical opinion held that the horn swamped the violin: that may be a danger most difficult to avert, and it occurs in climactic passages in the first movement (though not in the big climax at about seven minutes in), though those in later movements seem under better timbral control. And while it may be difficult to avert, it’s probably impossible to fix entirely satisfactorily.
Decca has reworked this issue, going from the earlier AAD to ADD, using its 96kHz-24-bit process, and the result provides a richer ambiance. A generation ago, I bought this right away once, and I’d buy it right away again. Obviously recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
The Franck is a very good performance, if not on the level of the benchmark Danczowska/Zimerman on DG. There’s plenty of passion in the opening movement, but Ashkenazy lacks Zimerman’s limpid touch, just as Perlman’s bold and thrustful playing misses Danczowska’s poetry, especially in the finale. The Brahms, on the other hand, is as fine a performance of this always difficult-to-balance work as any available. Tuckwell is excellent, and here having a violinist ready to go toe to toe with the piano and the horn is a plus. The program also somehow manages to be more than the sum of its parts; it works very well at a single sitting, God only knows why. So although you may not need the Franck, you won’t be sorry to have it, and the Brahms really is wonderful.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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