I have treasured these marvellous recordings since their release in the early-to-mid 1980s and my deepest affection for them has not diminished a jot in over 20 years.
But lately, I've asked myself the question, "WHY are these performances so far superior to any other recordings of Beethoven's incredibly beautiful and sublime Piano Trios?"
I have listened with patience to many other recordings over the years - those by the Beaux Arts Trio, the Florestan Trio, the Barenboim-Zukerman-Du Pré ensemble, and the Borodin Trio leap immediately to mind - but I have always returned to the Ashkenazy-Perlman-Harrell recordings as if returning from a long journey not worth the trouble and definitely NOT in the same league as HOME.
At first I thought the answer lay in some deep philosophical or musicological argument that must surely accompany performances of this calibre.
No, learned ponderings and cavernous psychological conclusions aside, the answer was much simpler than that! It's simply this (and aren't the answers to all the great questions in life so elegantly simple?), there is just the most incredible JOY in the music-making that you just can't help but fall in love with these performances. Virtuosity is one thing, but JOY is something more precious than all the gold and gems in King Solomon's palace!
No other recordings - and possibly no other recordings of Beethoven's music! - will enchant and beguile you as these will. A huge and possibly hasty statement to make, but then maybe you have not heard such music as the angels will sing eternally in heaven?
These performances will show you glimpses of a vast and everlasting paradise!
These are, then, my absolute top recommendations - bar none - for Beethoven's Piano Trios and, having purchased them with confidence, they should go on joyfully enriching your musical life for many, many years to come.