Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Quintet in A, D.667 (1819) [35:02]
Piano Trio no.1 in B flat, op.99 (D.898) (1827) [37:56]
The Schubert Ensemble (Simon Blendis (violin); Douglas Paterson (viola); Jane Salmon (cello); Peter Buckoke (double bass); William Howard (piano))
rec. Champs Hill Music Room, Potton Hall, Sussex, England, 7-8 November 2003; 21 November 2003 (Quintet). DDD.
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD007 [72:58]
This CD was originally released in 2004 on the now subsumed ASV label (GLD 4000), although the booklet does not mention the fact. Champs Hill, who existed at that time only as a recording venue, have essentially re-issued the recordings with new notes by Joanna Wyld. It may seem commercial folly to put out yet another version of these two works, yet if a group calling themselves the Schubert Ensemble cannot record Schubert - and stick a trout on the CD cover for good measure - where would the world be? Nonetheless, the 'Trout' in particular has been recorded so many times, and is available in so many high-quality interpretations, that this new old version may flounder for an audience, particularly on a disc priced at the higher end of the scale.
The Quintet is a work that has attracted considerable critical opprobrium over the decades, and still does in some quarters - its simplicity and affability, compounded by Schubert's liberal - some say shameless! - employment of repeats, are all too much for certain, more refined tastes. However, the general public has always loved it, and not merely for the delightfully singable fourth movement variations. The Piano Trio in B flat is a good choice for pairing with the Quintet. It is reminiscent of it from time to time, but musically is the greater work - one of Schubert's most memorable indeed, at least among the chamber works with piano. Among its numerous highlights is the unforgettable melody of the Andante.
Now established for well over a quarter of a century, the Schubert Ensemble have gone from strength to strength since this recording was made. Their make-up is still unchanged, and their recent recording for Chandos of George Enescu's Piano Quartets, also done at Champs Hill, was well received - see review. On this disc their phrasing throughout is splendidly expressive, their technique excellent and their limning of textures unbeatable. Their accounts of both the Quintet and, in reduced numbers, the Trio may not stand out as strikingly individual - this earlier review lists some of the more flamboyant alternatives to both works - but their sophistication is incontestable. If all else fails, what other recording offers a Salmon playing a Trout?
Sound quality is good, though not unfailingly crystal-clear - there is a slightly muffled quality to the piano in particular that will not be to all tastes, although only really affecting the Quintet.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Phrasing splendidly expressive, technique excellent and limning of textures unbeatable.
see also review by Brian Wilson