PHILIPS IS very aptly celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beaux Arts Trio with a new recording by the distinguished ensemble of the greatest of all piano trios, the so-called "Archduke," in B-flat, of Beethoven (9500.895, cassette 7300.895). It is an outstanding account of the work.
The Beaux Arts recorded all the Beethoven trios back in the '60s, before Isidore Cohen replaced the late Daniel Guilet as violinist with pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Those performances, still available in Philips set 6747.142, are fine too, but stingy with repeats (in order to get all those works on eight sides), and the older "Archduke" is not a match for the new one, which rates comparison with the older of the two recordings of the work by the Suk Trio (the only other performing threesome in the Beaux Arts' class, it would seem), now on Quintessence PMC-7082 (cassette P4C-7082). The Suk version, somewhat more enlivening than the Czech group's remake (issued on both Denon and Supraphon), would be one of my "desert island" records, and it is priced at little more than half the cost of the new Philips -- but no one could be unhappy with either of these fine records.
Josef Suk is involved in some other remakes and reissues, both as soloist in violin concertos and as leader of the trio named for his composer-grandfather. The Suk Trio's mid-'60s recordings of Mendelssohn's D minor Trio (Op. 49) and the C minor (Op. 101) of Brahms -- both really exalted performances -- have reappeared on Quintessence PMC-7148 (cassette P4C-7148), while the group's 1975 remake of Schubert's B-flat Trio (Op. 99) and his Op. 148 Notturno, issued on the digitally mastered Denon OX-7043-ND a few years ago, now is available in a less costly analogue edition on Supraphon (1111.1896.)
The Suk Trio's 1964 recording of the same two Schubert titles has been available on Quintessence PMC-7111 (cassette P4C-7111) for the last year or two, and it is a gem. The remake is not demonstrably superior -- unless you happen to insist on the first movement repeat, which is taken on the new disc but not on Quintessence.
Another extremely attractive Suk reissue on Quintessence is his 1965 recording of the Berg Violin Concerto with the late Karel Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic (PMC-7179, cassette P4C-7179) -- not quite as magical as the recent Perlman/Ozawa on DG, perhaps, but a great performance by any standards. When this was issued on Crossroads some 15 years ago, it was coupled with Bach's Cantata No. 60, one of whose themes Berg cited in his Concerto. This time the companion piece is Berg's own Chamber Concerto (not "Chamber Music," as Quintessence has labeled it), with pianist Zdenek Kozina, violinist Ivan Straus and the Prague Chamber Harmony conducted by Libor Pesek, and this too is a first-rate performance. This is as genuine bargain at the modest price asked.
Finally, the recordings of Mozart concertos which Suk made during the early '70s with the Prague Chamber Orchestra under Libor Hlacacek, issued on various labels in various parts of Europe, have just now reached our shores in the form of a five-disc set from Supraphon (1110.15213/81525). Included are the five authenticated violin concertos, the two still in doubt (K. 268 and K. 271a), the Concertone for two violins and oboe (with Vaclav Snitil, violin, and Jiri Krejci, oboe), the Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola (with Josef Kodousek, viola, and without conductor), and the three short pieces for violin and orchestra.
This strikes me as the most successful "integral set" of the Mozart violin concertos, and it is the only one, think, to include K. 268 and K. 271a. It would be hard to think of any other violinist who combines the sweetness, precision and instinctive feeling for this material that Suk shows so abundantly, and his associates here are as attuned to him as those in his trio. This is a "desert island" item for sure.