Most of us can conjure up memories of scenes from films (especially golden-oldies) set in aristocratic ballrooms, where the camera slowly traverses the elegant lords and ladies to rest for a moment on a small group of musicians, maybe just a string quartet. They are playing a classical minuet of the most powdery-puff kind, their faces are solemn, they seem uninterested in their work and nobody is taking the blindest bit of notice of them. Heaven forbid that I should suggest that these generally well-schooled and efficient (wind intonation sometimes a shade raw, ensemble not always 100%) performances are in that category, yet the picture came to my mind early on and it never quite left me, at least in the Schubert. Just two movements show rather more vitality: the second minuet and the finale of the Octet.
I must say I find the whole Dieter Klöcker set-up a little puzzling. The cover of these discs (for this is part of the ongoing Dieter Klöcker Edition) unfailingly lists Consortium Classicum/Dieter Klöcker as if he were the conductor and his honour-laden curriculum covers two pages, yet he is the clarinettist. Granted that he founded the Consortium Classicum and masterminds its activities in a general sort of way (he also wrote the rather scanty booklet notes), but there is no clarinet in about half the music here. Does he solemnly stand there conducting groups of three to five musicians? Does he come down from on high during the rehearsals and inspire his little flock with priceless words of wisdom? Perhaps the photograph on the back page gives the game away. Here he is poring benignly over a score, pencil in hand. He copies out the parts!
In spite of all my beastliness, there is a reason for buying this disc, and it's not the early and not very characteristic Schubert pieces. The Hüttenbrenner is a minor find. The first movement is marked Andante con moto but it is not a slow movement, it is, in spirit, a leisurely symphonic allegro, and there is a real feeling of symphonic movement to it. The themes are motivic and a little short-breathed but they build into long paragraphs, the music always knows where it's going even when it takes unexpected paths. This can be said of the other movements, too. The second (a scherzo) may seem at first like a lot of other classical scherzos, but soon it is taking some interesting twists.
This very likeable piece seems to have engaged the players more than the rest so if you like early romantic byways you must investigate. And, for all I've said, the Schubert pieces are rare and the performances at least adequate.