They say that fame is a mask that eats into one's face (not that I'll ever know) and there is no reason to believe that the Beaux Arts Trio were exempt from this maxim. It begs the question: come the late Seventies and early Eighties when they were so lionised by conservative circles, did fame militate their vitality?
One does not want to generalise too much: I prefer their digital Mozart and Schubert over their analogue predecessors - but their remake of the Brahms Piano Trios was enervating and it cannot have been an isolated event. From what I can recall of their second Beethoven cycle, it was marvellously played but the interpretations were very `safe' to the point of being ossified. Little of it reached into one's gizzards to prompt a visceral reaction - and that was surely Beethoven's intention. I am not saying they were playing to the gallery; they knew, however, their constituency and weren't going to ruffle their feathers. Bring on the Gramophone Awards!
Sailing by the cape, we turn at last to their first survey of Beethoven's Piano Trios, recorded in 1965. The line-up is different; and while in general I prefer Cohen to Guilet on account of his richer tone, the latter is in fine form here and the gap seems narrower than usual. Compared with the later set, this is hungry, propulsive playing - and not a little dangerous in the first movement of the Ghost. In the Archduke for instance, stateliness is married with vitality and it is astounding. The famous Allegro ma non troppo of Opus 70 / 2 has all the delicacy of a Klimt. They make more of the lesser works.
In short, this is why they became famous in the first place. It has so much more torque to its name than the Kempff / Fournier / Szeryng set on DG.
Note: this entire set was remastered by Philips Bit-Stream and it sounds sensational. The notes are excellent and the array of photographs is mesmerising (was Pressler ever so young ?). Indeed, the box itself with its beautiful shade of green has a mystique to it: yes, it sits on my shelf in the here and now but every so often I sense that part of it is communing with those faraway days of 1965 when a young and ravenous triumvirate was trying to carve up the world like Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. If you succeed in tracking down this exceedingly rare box-set, you will understand what I am trying to say so fitfully.