It isn't as if these 1941 recordings haven't been issued and reissued many times before. But this is probably the first time they've been issued with the cellist's name given such prominence. One can understand the hitherto customary disparity. After all, violinist Jascha Heifetz, pianist Artur Rubinstein, and violist William Primrose lived on into the stereo era while cellist Emanuel Feuermann died at 39 the year after these recordings were made -- and thus didn't live to achieve the popularity of Heifetz and Rubinstein. But because Opus Kura, the superb Japanese historical label, has declared Feuermann "one of the great musicians [we are] most interested in," Feuermann's name appears right alongside Heifetz's -- and in much larger type than Rubinstein's or Primrose's.
As these recordings unmistakably demonstrate, Feuermann fully deserves to be ranked with Heifetz and Rubinstein. With a gloriously rich tone, a fabulously polished technique, and more taste than a roomful of fashionistas, Feuermann could hold his own with the imperious Heifetz and the ingratiating Rubinstein in the Brahms, Beethoven, and Schubert piano trios. Even better, Feuermann played with -- not in spite of or against -- Heifetz and Primrose in the Mozart Divertimento and Dohnányi Serenade. While Opus Kura has done its standard splendid job of presenting the best possible transfers of these half-century-old recordings, these are not the first or only recordings of the works one should hear -- they are, after all, half-century-old recordings and thus perhaps unsuited for listeners unprepared for their snap-crackle-and-pop quality -- but anyone who loves great cello playing and great chamber music playing who doesn't already know Feuermann's playing is urged to check out these discs.