The Fibonacci Sequence, one of Britainís foremost chamber ensembles,
here performs Schubertís sublime Octet in F.
Written as a commission and modelled on Beethovenís Septet,
Op. 20, Schubertís Octet takes the form of a large-scale divertimento
- a piece to be listened to as recreation: not too demanding,
not too serious. Composed in March 1824, and scored for clarinet,
bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, cello, and double-bass, it
is the largest in scale of the chamber works. Schubertís gift
for melody and brilliant yet delicate decoration centres on
the contribution of the solo violin.
The Fibonacci Sequence was founded in 1994 by its artistic director,
pianist Kathron Sturrock. The group is named after Leonardo
of Pisa, the great mediaeval mathematician, commonly known as
Fibonacci. The series of numbers named after him occurs throughout
the natural world in the most extraordinary way, appearing magically,
in petals of flowers, branches of trees, and in many more complex
ways. The relation of the numbers to each other is directly
connected to the Golden Section, held by many to determine the
most harmonious proportions in art and music. Now well established
The Fibonacci Sequence is distinguished by the quality and high
profile of its members and by the imagination and variety of
its programming, making full use of the range and versatility
of the chamber music repertoire. Its players are noted for the
zest and enthusiasm they communicate to their audience.
However, I do not find that this version quite measures up to
the best. There is not quite the same sense of drive and forward
momentum as on the very finest. There are some slips and smudges
by the first violin on the same intricate figure at 4:47 and
8:13, and some impurities of tone in the horn, nor is the clarinet
as rounded in tone as one would like. The opening does not quite
capture the requisite sense of brooding tension and is rather
obvious in its approach, lacking nuance of dynamics and phrasing.
The Schubert Ensemble from Budapest, on the super-bargain Naxos
label, creates a far more enticing and mysterious mood. The
individual members of that ensemble are by and large more virtuosic
and skilful, and more refulgent and secure of tone - as well
as being far freer in expression. The Fibonacci are by comparison
too four-square in their phrasing; the horn around 2.55 does
not carry the lightness, legato and smooth elegance of its Budapest
counterpart. The Adagio, too, lacks some poise - and the suspicion
of bumpiness is accentuated by too close a recording. The instruments
need a little more air around them to impart a warmth or glow.
A certain thin, stringiness of tone, presumably a concession
to modern HIP practice, does not serve this music well, and
thus the music does not sing as it should.
While this recording is perfectly serviceable, ultimately the
Schubert Ensemble is considerably more than merely competent:
those musicians seem to have been born with Schubertís music
in their blood. Listening to their 1992 Naxos recording made
in Hungary, one hears them sing, soar and shine with an enjoyment
that borders on bliss. Their evident affection for the music
permeates every note and itís as if the musicians and their
instruments had become one being in the act of making music.
I do not get this sense from listening to the Fibonacci.
Thus this Deux-Elles disc remains a fine second rank version.
It lacks the last degree of refinement and Viennese charm.