This set is, indeed, complete, including as it does the six standard trios as well as the op. 11 work that Beethoven originally wrote for a clarinet, but later arranged for violin. The performances were, to judge from viewing, given exclusively for video, no audience evidently being present. The third of the op. 1 set and op.11 are in black and white; everything else is color. Throughout, the picture quality is excellent. The mono sound, however, is disappointing for the vintage: somewhat brittle in the piano and shrill in the violin. Much of this can be corrected with good tone controls, however. Prior to filming these performances, this triumvirate recorded studio versions of these works that were widely admired. Nearly all of what is offered here is in the same class: well-organized, vibrant readings attuned to the wit, drama, and lyricism of these remarkable scores. Everything in op. 1 works well, as does the violin version of op. 11. The two trios in op. 70 are, of course, studies in contrast—No. 1 comprising some of the most explosive chamber music that Beethoven ever composed, No. 2 more lyrical and experimental, its eerie opening being a case in point. Both works are impressively played, No.1 (“Ghost”) projected with thrilling energy and spooky delicacy.
Chamber Music seems so right during the boisterous mechanics of the holidays and one sure respite from the garish noise of the external season can be found in works like the Mendelssohn Piano Trios.
Here Eugene Istomin, Leonard Rose, Isaac Stern perform Piano Trios 1 and 2 in a manner that bespeaks camaraderie of the performers as well as a complete respect for these luminous works. Some have called these works piano sonatas with obbligato and while for this listener that is an unfair judgment, Eugene Istomin plays the piano part with enough flair and thoughtful propulsion that he does at times sound the more important. But that is Mendelssohn's writing and not a self-aggrandizement of a pianist.
The overall sound is simply superb. These two trios are some of the loveliest ever written from that era and the gentlemen performing them offer sophisticated and informed interpretations. The recording is excellent, the music is rarefied! Highly recommended.
– Amazon.com [5-star] reviewer
Asked to provide a capsule characterization of the Beethoven trios as opposed to the many other fine ones that the Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio performed, Isaac Stern offered the summation that "Beethoven is constantly driving himself and his performers in a way unknown to any other composer. There is none of the romantic levity one finds in the works of others. He is always deadly in earnest, even when introducing a lighter touch for contrast….."Irving Kolodin
The History of the Trio goes back to the year 1950. The place was Prades in the eastern Pyrenees in France. The occasion was a festival commemorating the bicentenary of J.S. Bach's death. The focus of the event was Pablo Casals, who had, through the persuation of Alexander Schneider, agreed to lead the festival and make music again after a self-imposed exile, assumed final.Eugene Istomin
…I have 5 complete sets of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas, and I have derived as much pleasure from Stern/Istomin as from any of the others. Indeed, I think it is more profound than the much heralded Dumay/Pires collaboration, and it doesn't give up much in sound quality to that one, either. As with Stern's second recording of the Beethoven Concerto with Barenboim, Stern had much new to say about this composer in the later stage of his career.
Is there a better trio than the Florestan playing today? All three members are consummate artists, outstanding instrumentalists, and ensemble players to the manner born, but it’s the playing of pianist Susan Tomes that carries these performances to their greatest heights. Since the ensemble is perfectly judged by all concerned, it may seem unjust to single out the playing of one member for special comment, but such is the extreme sophistication, the extraordinary subtlety and the expressive range of this artist that I can see no alternative. The tonal control, the exquisite shaping of phrases, the rhythmical suppleness and structural backbone are of an order seldom encountered in the playing even of many famous soloists. But what renders her playing here still more remarkable is the exemplary precision with which it’s matched to the different sonorities and qualities of attack, so-called, of the string players. And what players they are. For all of the above this is not a pianist-dominated performance, except insofar as Schubert wrote the piece that way.