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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Serenade for String Trio in D, Op. 8 (1797) [24:42]
String Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 3 (1797) [34:41]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Trio No. 2 in B flat, D.581 (1817) [16:53]
Jascha Heifetz (violin)
William Primrose (viola)
Gregor Piatigorsky (cello)
rec. August 1960 & March 1957 (Op. 3), RCA Studios (Op. 8 & D.581), Radio Recorders (Op. 3), Hollywood, USA. Ambient Stereo

Despite featuring solo instrumentalist of the highest calibre, on issue these recordings were clearly badly compromised by their inferior sound. Beethoven’s String Trio No. 1 was recorded in mono at a different Hollywood location from the other two, which were made in stereo but still suffered from dry, hard, edgy sound; Pristine’s aim, therefore, was to remedy that by remastering them into Ambient Stereo, which is almost invariably an unqualified success.

So it proves; rather than paraphrase, I may as well quote in full Andrew Rose remarks in his note as he sums up the improvements thus: “Happily all three of these recordings have come up a treat with XR remastering correcting those harsh tones, warming up Piatigorsky’s anaemic cello, and rounding out the sound of the ensemble. The addition of natural reverberation from the Sala Petrassi at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome further serves to enhance the sound of these fine players and ameliorate the shortcomings of those original recordings.” However, it must still be said that for all the improvements, there is a noticeable difference in quality between the 1957, mono recording and the two stereo recordings from 1960. That is a pity, as it probably contains the most stimulating and enjoyable music on the disc. All three players generate such warm, resonance, but Heifetz’ golden tone in particular is miraculous.

If I am les enthusiastic about this issue than I was when reviewing the superlative Pristine double CD (PACM 108) with the same three artists at the core of the ensemble, it is because that issue contains far greater music than the youthful works played here, which, for all the fervent advocacy of the distinguished performers here, are not especially memorable. Beethoven wrote his Serenade and string trio essentially as divertimenti, or light entertainment pieces and to my ears Schubert’s trio, despite exhibiting many incidental beauties, displays none of the profundity which characterises his best chamber music. For instance, while the Adagio begins to aspire to the sublimity of Beethoven’s later work, I find the theme of the Andante in Op. 3 to be approaching the inane. To say that I find some of the music boring might say more about my inadequacies than the compositions of two composers of undoubted genius, but there it is.

However, if you find more than I to enjoy in these works, you could hardly find better executed performances now that they have been so expertly revitalised by Pristine.

Ralph Moore

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