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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat D.898 (1827) [40:29]
Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat D.929 (1827) [42:26]
Notturno in E flat D.897 (1827) [10:14]
Sonatensatz D.28 (1812) [7:39]
Grand Duo in A major D.574 (1817) [22:37]
Jean- Philippe Collard (piano); Augustin Dumay (violin); Frédéric Lodéon (cello)
rec. Salle Adyar, Paris, Jan, May 1986; Salle Wagram, Paris, Jan.1982
EMI CLASSICS GEMINI 365295 2 [58:35 + 65:13]

This looks like another straight repackaging of an earlier EMI Double Forte issue and it certainly features an all-star line up. It predictably comes up against some very hot competition, even in the budget sector, and has qualities that may appeal to some listeners. I found myself, at times, wanting a different kind of Schubert playing, but that’s maybe because my yardstick has always been the cultured refinement of the Beaux Arts’ later Philips recording, which in turn will not appeal to everyone.
I guess my major gripe, at least concerning the trios, is that these youthful players have bags of energetic enthusiasm, which is mostly welcome, but their playing too often borders on aggressive or harsh. The opening allegro of the B flat sets off at the sort of lick that leaves the Beaux Arts flagging in their wake – and they keep it up throughout the movement. This allows little time for the more reflective elements to properly register, though there’s no doubting that this brand of impulsive grandeur is immensely exciting. The second subject (2:08) is not as lovingly caressed as the Beaux Arts, but some may accuse them of loving the music to death, here and in other places. The andante has grown on me more as I’ve listened and I’m fast coming to the conclusion that the recording could have something to do with my discontent. It is slightly shallow, a bit up front and has the sort of digital glare that was common in some 1980s recordings. This tends to give the instruments, particularly the piano, a rather hard edge, especially in fortissimo passages. I experimented with some judicious tone controlling and things improved a bit, but going back to the Philips recording revealed a beautifully balanced, warm glow that suits the playing perfectly.
The big E flat Trio also gets an exciting/frenetic performance, depending on your view. The great slow movement perhaps suffers most from a fast tempo, though here I have to say the world weary tread of the Beaux Arts does begin to sound almost leaden and dull. Here, and indeed overall, I prefer the new Naxos disc by the Kungsbacka Trio, well reviewed in these columns (see review) and having an almost perfect blend of youthful élan and poetic gravitas. The recording is vastly superior to this EMI, having warmth and sharp focus in perfect balance. When they get round to the B flat Trio, the pair of discs will still only cost a fraction more than the Gemini and will be well worth it, assuming they keep their standards up.
For now, I guess many readers who happen across this as a bargain way of getting some lovely Schubert chamber music will not be too disappointed. I really enjoyed the Grand Duo, but that’s as much because I haven’t heard it for a while, and the other short pieces are well brought off, Collard in particular on sparkling form. It’s worth bearing in mind the Naxos disc for the E flat, as well as the Beaux Arts - both early and later digital versions - both of which are mid-price, for the two trios plus similar extras to this Gemini.
Tony Haywood


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