This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
HAYDN Piano Trios: in F, Hob XV:2; in B?, Hob XV:8; in F, Hob XV:6; in G, Hob XV:5; in E?, Hob XV:10; in D,Read more class="ARIAL12"> Hob XV:7; in A, Hob XV:9; in e, Hob XV:12; in E?, Hob XV:11 • Beaux Arts Tr • PENTATONE 5186 179 (2 Hybrid multichannel SACDs: 123: 10)
These are, I believe, the first of the Beaux Arts’ Haydn trios to appear on SACD. For many years, the Philips recordings were the only ones in the catalog, and when others appeared they proved to be the best—until the onset of period practice raised the stakes. Age has not dimmed their charms; they remain ideal performances on the modern instrument side of the equation. I don’t remember when this Haydn series was begun or when completed; a glance through old Schwann catalogs suggests that these 1976 recordings were about half way through. The performers are the seemingly eternal team of Menahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, and Bernard Greenhouse; the recording site was the Concertgebouw, which accounts for the bright, open acoustic heard here (most of the other Trios were recorded elsewhere). That, together with the vibrancy of the performances, especially the jewel-like perfection of Pressler’s piano, created a classic issue.
A first reaction is to lament that the entire set (was it 43 trios?) has not been issued on SACD. PentaTone has started with the early works, rather than issuing the more famous London Trios of the 1790s, which is a sign that it intends to continue. The question is, how much, if at all, do these recordings benefit from SACD and from multichannel presentation? They seemed so perfect on LP, and then on CD, but looking back now, the silent background of the Philips CDs revealed a slightly glassy quality, noticeable particularly with the violin. That has disappeared (no doubt some later technology will make us revise that to “diminished”). Pressler’s piano always showed a slight sonic break somewhere below middle C, as if the high and low notes were played on different instruments; that break is more apparent on SACD than on CD, but multichannel listening disguises that fact, leaving us right back where we started (as Anna Russell said of The Ring). I do not otherwise find any improvement in hearing these three players on four channels instead of two. Would I buy the SACDs to replace the CDs? No. The music, the performances, and the recordings are identical, which is what matters most. Of course, audiophiles are free to disagree; fine, let them buy and enjoy. One thing is certain: all of us will love the Beaux Arts playing Haydn.