Notes on the recording
If any recording can be said to be definitive, this is it. Not only a soaring, blue-skies performance of the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and not only the best-known, best-loved recording of cellist Leslie Parnas, it is also one of the best examples of that special sprit of collaboration that prevailed at the Marlboro Festival during those golden summers when Pablo Casals still cast his spell on the musicians gathered among the green hills of Vermont.
Everyone remembers being there for the performance or the recording session. And of course, everyone was there! Rudolph Serkin presided at the piano. Violinist Jaime Laredo still flaunts his achievement on his Sony Classical website. Alexander Schneider conducted. Members of the Guarneri & Juilliard String Quartets led the string sections. Arnold Steinhardt was the concertmaster. Julius Levine led the bass section. You can hear Lennie Arner’s oboe, and Harold Wright’s clarinet. A dream team if ever there was one!
But beyond the artists who participated in this electric performance, beyond the family of administrators, managers, producers, engineers and extras, beyond the audience members who may still have a ticket stub somewhere in a keepsake drawer, there are people who remember this recording and still refer to it with awe. “The greatest piece of cello-playing I have ever heard.” “I didn’t know the cello could be played like that.” These are the things people say to me when recalling this recording.
And of course, originally, it was a record. A 33-1/3 long-playing vinyl record, that is. CBS Masterworks was the label that recorded and preserved many of the Marlboro Festival performances, between 1957 and 1969, which to this day are regarded as inimitable treasures. Many of these recordings have since been re-released on CD by Sony Classical, which bought out the CBS Masterworks label when the world turned digital.
The CDs are marked in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Marlboro Festival, which is still held every year. The Mendelssohn Octet (Jaime Laredo, Alexander Schneider, Arnold Steinhardt, John Dalley, violins, Michael Tree, Samuel Rhodes, violas, Leslie Parnas, David Soyer, cellos), and the Schubert Trout Quintet (Rudolf Serkin, piano, Jaime Laredo, violin, Philipp Naegele, viola, Leslie Parnas, cello, Julius Levine, bass), and Mozart Clarinet Quintet (Harold Wright, clarinet, Alexander Schneider, Isidore Cohen, violins, Samuel Rhodes, viola, Leslie Parnas, cello), are particular stand-outs.
But this Beethoven Triple Concerto is still missing. Our cardboard record jackets are fraying. Our vinyl is scratched and our needles are dull. Soon we will mark the 50th anniversary of the Marlboro Festival. We long to hear it as it once was! But now there are ways. Now we have computers and CD-writers. Is this subversion? Does the Mona Lisa belong only to the Musee du Louvre? I don’t care, play me that slow movement again…
-- Marcel Parnas, Stephentown, NY, April 2004