This Mark Obert-Thorn restoration for Naxos Historical is wonderfully done! These recordings were made, for HMV, between 1930 and 1939 and, despite a fairly low transfer volume, sound amazingly good for such ancient 78rpm discs. Pablo Casals hardly needs introduction from me; he was certainly one of the greatest cellists of the twentieth-century and, by all accounts, a deeply principled human being. To learn more about Casals, I commend Peter Gutmann's eloquent article on his superb website, "Classical Notes", called "Pablo Casals - The Musician and the Man", written in 2004.
This Naxos Historical 2-CD set was released in 2001 and contains all of Beethoven's Cello Sonatas and the Minuet in G. At the end of CD 2, we have Casal's and Horszowski's Brahms Cello Sonata No.2, Op.99, recorded in Abbey Road Studio 3 on 28 November 1936.
Until relatively recently, Beethoven's Cello Sonatas were unduly neglected; I think I'm right in saying that the Casal's set was the first generally available integral set, played in a magnificent and dramatic style. Up until the late 1940s, when Fournier and Schnabel recorded a set Aristocrat of Cellists, these Casal's recordings, like Weingartner's Beethoven symphonies, were the default choice for the connoisseur.
As I listen to more and more historical recordings, it seems to me that some of today's leading musicians have lost a certain indefinable something in their approach to many pieces. These recordings provide an aural window into the long-lost past, a time when music really meant something (and was very expensive in it's recorded form!), rather than just "product". Perhaps I'm guilty of "rose-tinted spectacle syndrome", but, truthfully, so many of these pre-WWII records are just so moving.
Recommended, and for those wanting great performances in up-to-date sound, you won't go far wrong with the Heinrich Schiff and Till Fellner set, now available on Brilliant Classics Complete Cello Sonatas.
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