Emil Gilels / Leonid Kogan / Mstislav Rostropovich

Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms: Trios

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If they have not already heard these performances, fans of violinist Leonid Kogan, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and pianist Emil Gilels should by all means acquaint themselves with them. However, those fans should seek them out on a different release because the remastering of this issue is poor. Recorded in the U.S.S.R. in the mid-'50s, the performances by Kogan, Rostropovich, and Gilels of Beethoven's "Archduke" Piano Trio and unpublished B flat major Trio along with Haydn's D major Trio are sweet toned, soulful, and amazingly sympathetic; the three men play with nearly telepathic ensemble. But the sound is flat, black, and hard with sufficient clarity, but almost no atmosphere. Of the two additional recordings here, one is fully at the same level as the three mentioned above, while one is arguably at a much lower level of achievement. Rostropovich's 1956 recording of Prokofiev's Cello Sonata with pianist Sviatoslav Richter is simply tremendous -- full bodied, deeply expressive, and wholly authoritative -- but Kogan and Gilels' 1951 recording of Brahms' Trio for violin, piano, and horn with hornist Yakov Shapiro is more problematic because of Shapiro's nasal tone and wavering vibrato. In every case, however, Urania's sound is so compromised that listening to these discs for any length of time can induce serious aural fatigue.

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