Rudolf Serkin

Schubert: Trio con Pianoforte, Op. 100; Beethoven: Sonata a Kreutzer N. 9, Op. 47

(CD - Urania #350)

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The Urania label does a much-needed and appreciative service of locating performances by historically significant artists. Like other contributions on the label, this installment features rather remarkable remastering of recordings made in 1935 and 1941. Despite being recorded in monaural sound, the sound quality is rather warm and spacious, with virtually all traces of hiss being removed. The downside of this album -- and many others on this label -- is that no historical background is given about the performers, a trait that would seem intrinsically necessary for historical recordings.

First on this program is Schubert's E flat major Piano Trio performed by the venerable (but inconsistent) Rudolf Serkin, Adolf Busch, and brother Hermann Busch. This recording is one of the more academic and less musical performances given by Serkin. The first movement of the trio, for example, is extremely hurried, often at the expense of some of the more subtle details. Beethoven's Op. 47 Violin Sonata, the so-called "Kreutzer" sonata, is a completely different story. The interplay between Serkin and Busch is completely electric, particularly in the Presto section of the first movement. Serkin's opening of the second movement Andante, though still faster than some listeners may expect, is warm and introspective. The Presto Finale is, again, completely exhilarating, although there are times when the tempo almost seems to get away from the two performers. In total, this album will certainly be of interest to collectors and those with an ear for historical performances, but probably less ideally suited for casual listeners looking for their first recording of either of these works.

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