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Question for Toscha (re: Brahms Trio op. 8)

Stephen  Fine

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I'm planning on giving a lecture in my class on the chamber music of Brahms. The lecture is a comparison of the original and the revisional versions of Brahms' Trio, op. 8. In any case, I'm supposed to include recordings in my presentation and I was hoping you could give advice on what is good out there.


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I took a look at recordings I have, but with the exception of Dumay/Pires/Wang which clearly states that it is using the revision, all the other recordings I have just mention that Brahms revised the trio later in his life and do not specifically state the choice of the versions. My guess is that unless a recording specifically says that it is using the first version, you can probably assume that most recordings use the revision.

I do have quite a few, including the two Rubinstein recordings. I prefer the earlier one with Heifetz and Feuermann because I feel that the later one is a little excessively heavy at times. I do have a problem with the earlier one as well. The first movement is, I feel, over-driven. The later movements are superb, though.

Two recordings I remember with fondness are Fischer/Schneiderhan/Mainardi and Istomin/Stern/Rose versions. The former has such a special atmosphere, and Mainardi's first entrance is exquisite. And the string players blends the sound in such a way that one almost lose track of each instruments. Fischer's playing has a few rough spots, but he is unfailingly tasteful. The Stern recording is also superb, with Rose playing absolutely beautifully.

Then there are two recordings that involves Casals. The earlier one (1952) with Stern and Hess is better played, instrumentally, although I find the later one (1955) with Istomin and Menuhin musically more rewarding, especially Menuhin's committed playing (even if the second movement is less than pristine).

There is also a recording by Schnabel/Szigeti/Fournier. It must have been an interesting performance, but the sound is well below the standard of the day and even I have trouble sitting through the recording (I am far more tolerant about older sound than just about everybody on this board). It is regretful that the sound is so poor, for Schnabel was a superb Brahms player and Fournier was in top form then.

I also heard Previn/Mullova/Schiff, Dumay/Pires/Wang, Olevsky Trio, Frankl/Pauk/Kirshbaum and Badura-Skoda/Jean Fournier/Janigro as well. The Olevsky left me with the strongest impression, then followed by the Badura-Skoda (spiritual descendant of the Fischer recording), and the Frankl. The Previn and Dumay did not leave me with much of an impression. Perhaps I should listen to them again. It has been sometime since I have listen to those.

Too bad that there is no Corot/Thibaud/Casals recording for this piece. That would have been superb.


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