Brahms's chamber music has become a growing source of delight for me, and I'm increasingly coming to see it as his greatest achievement. He did everything, from string sextets to clarinet sonatas, and it was with his chamber music that he truly relaxed and let his gift for lyricism roam free. If his symphonic works were driven by the need to come to terms with and transcend Beethoven, then his chamber music has Schubert's expansive generosity.
These trios are a great introduction, since they are drawn from every stage of Brahms's career. The Beaux Arts Trio offer definitive proof that it's best to go for an established ensemble rather than the superstar collaborations that record companies dream up to try and up their sales figures. There's an instinctive dialogue going on between these three veterans, and Brahms's two later piano trios are exquisitely done. Their approach is relaxed, with none of the reversion to manic keyboard hammering that seems to characterize many interpretations of Brahms's piano trios/quartets/ quintet. Brahms wrote his chamber pieces for clarinet toward the end of his life, and the Beaux Art Trio's interpretation is appropriately, wistfully autumnal. Like Brahms's other clarinet music, this piece is very special, and this is the most appealing interpretation I've heard. As for the horn trio, which isn't done by the Beaux Arts Trio, but features an ensemble led by Arthur Grumiaux, they just don't play music this way anymore.--C.Smith