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Classic Open Air: Gelbard Quartet spielt Schubert und Brahms
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Violin Sonatina No. 2 in A minor Op. 137 No. 2 D385
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor Op. 108
Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor Op. 60
Elena Kuschnerova (piano)
Lev Gelbard (violin)
Gelbard Quartet (Lev Gelbard (violin), Mikhail Mouler (viola) Sergei Rossokha (cello) and Elena Kuschnerova (piano)
Recorded live in the Martin Luther Church zu Peine, 31st August 1996
CR 961101 [73.38]


This recording derives from a concert given in the Martin Luther Church in Peine. At least three members of what I take to be the Gelbard Piano Quartet (Gelbard himself, cellist Rossokha and pianist Elena Kuschnerova) are now resident in Germany though Mikhail Moulder still seems to be teaching in Moscow. Firstly a quick word about names. Though the disc sports the name Guelbard I have been assured that Gelbard is the preferred spelling.

The church acoustic is not very appealing for the chamber works and can, it must be said, get a little tiring. The most harmonious work in this respect is the Piano Quartet, which gets a strong and often pensive performance and expands to fill the space quite satisfactorily. The performance is underpinned by the pianistís sensitively shaped contribution and the corporate rhythmic drive is well calibrated, even though some of the string playing can be scrappy in the heat of the moment. But the sonatas do bear the brunt of the problem and theyíre not helped by Gelbardís rather unrelieved playing. From the start of the Brahms we are aware of vibrato bulges and dynamics that tend to stress the potential non-legato unease of the opening paragraphs to an exaggerated degree. Itís a feature of his performance that overstatement and over-vibration are predominant and when technical problems occur (they do and they are passing in the main) they tend to impede rhythm. They certainly charge into the finale after some capriciously phrased passages in the Scherzo Ė and itís probably the recordingís fault that accompanying violin figures are much too loud. Kuschnerova plays extremely well and is genuinely supportive but the end is just too untidy and uncomfortable.

The Schubert shares many of the same characteristics as the Brahms; thereís a rather hectoring quality to the music-making in the first movement that I find inimical to affectionate or flowing phrasing though the Andante is very much better with fine chordal depth from Kuschnerova. Their Minuetto, however, is a bit jowly after the freshness of Grumiaux and Castagnone. Sorry, but I donít get their Allegro finale at all; itís point-makingly slow and artificially "interior."

Jonathan Woolf

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