Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 100, D929 (1827)
Violin Sonata (Sonatina) in A minor, Op. 137/2, D385 (1816)
Beethoven-Trio (Amadeus Webersinke (piano); Manfred Scherzer (violin); Karl-Heinz Schroter (cello))
rec. 15-17 December 1971, 10-14 January 1972, 2-3 March 1972, Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany
This CD with two Schubert chamber works is one of a series of recordings from Berlin Classics. They are reissuing recordings from the former DDR (East German) owned label Eterna. There are 30 CDs featuring a number of conductors that were active on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain and even today are still little known: Franz Konwitschny, Heinz Rögner, Otmar Suitner and Max Pommer. Both Schubert works are in ADD sound that is clear and well balanced. A nice touch is the cover design taken from the original Eterna LP sleeve. The downside is that the booklet notes are entirely in German. 
The first work is Schubert’s late great Piano Trio No. 2. Despite its later catalogue number this was probably written before the B flat major Trio, D898. Schubert included it in a successful March 1828 concert that showcased his works at the Musikverein in Vienna. He must have regarded the score highly as it was the only one to be published - H. A. Probst, Leipzig - outside Austria during his lifetime. It was also the only chamber score of his to be published during his lifetime.
In the substantial opening Allegro the Beethoven-Trio is elegant yet vibrant with fine touches of subtle refinement. The dramatic writing in the Andante elicits robust and forthright playing. There is a distinct sense of the disconsolate in the march passages. The Scherzo is alive with the spirit of the dance - uplifting, inventive and thrusting. Marked Allegro moderato the longest movement is the expansive rondo Finale. The robustly high-spirited playing is full of dazzling colour and the Coda is lyrically imposing.
I have amassed a large number of accounts of the Piano Trio No. 2.I strongly commend three of them, all forming part of double sets. The evergreen accounts from the late 1960s by the magnificent Beaux Arts Trio of D898 and D929 are expressive yet highly cultured. So beautifully played and recorded these performances have stood the test of time and should be staples of any serious Schubert collection. Including the two string trios played by the Grumiaux Trio this well filled digitally re-mastered set is on Philips Classics 438 700-2 (c/w Beaux Arts: Piano Trio No.2, D898; Sonatensatz, D.28; Notturno, D897. Grumiaux Trio: String Trio, D581; String Trio, D471).
Of the more recent digital offerings my stand-out accounts are from the admirable Trio Wanderer for their fresh, vital and highly accomplished playing. The Wanderer is well recorded in 2000 from the Arsenal de Metz, France on Harmonia Mundi HMC 902002.03 (c/w Sonatensatz, D28; Notturno, D897). Another very fine modern digital offering of the two Piano Trios, D898 and D929 is from Frank Braley (piano); Renaud Capuçon (violin) and Gautier Capuçon (cello). The French trio is in splendid form with adept playing that feels so keenly alive. They were recorded in 2006 at the MC2 Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, France and were issued on Virgin Classics 00946 365476 2 6 (c/w Notturno, D897).
Also on the Eterna disc is the Violin Sonata (Sonatina) in A minor, Op. 137/2, D385. Schubert composed it in 1816 at a time when he felt obliged to go into teaching rather than be conscripted for military service. It seems that it was dedicated to his older brother Ferdinand who also composed. Schubert’s repertoire for violin and piano is totally undeserving of the relative neglect it experiences. In March 2012 I interviewed the renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter prior to her recital with pianist Lambert Orkis at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. In her programme she had included Schubert’s Fantasie in C major. She is a great advocate of the piece explaining that it “is the crown of chamber music repertoire… Seriously, it is the greatest piece ever written for violin and piano.” Praise indeed from such an exalted judge! For Eterna the Violin Sonata D385 is played by Amadeus Webersinke (piano) and Manfred Scherzer (violin). The bluster of the opening movement is contrasted with restlessness - it cannot seem to settle. I was struck by the influence of Mozart. Verging on the dramatic the writing of the Andante con moto is notable for its variation in tempi and intensity with which the duo copes adeptly. The extremely short and forthright Scherzo is made of stern stuff. With such highly melodic music the players convey real nobility and the violin is conspicuous for writing that exploits its mid-to-high registers. Overflowing with good humour and high spirits in the Finale the assured players unearth a serious undertone. Webersinke’s piano tone and balance was fine although I did feel that the intonation of Scherzer’s violin was slightly awry.
From the competing accounts of the Violin Sonata D385 I admire the glorious version from Julia Fischer (violin) and Martin Helmchen (piano). They recorded this at the Concertboerderij Valthermond in 2009. There’s a winning spontaneity and memorable brio about their readings of all of Schubert’s works for violin and piano. They can be heard on two separate volumes from Pentatone Classics: volume 1 (SACD) PTC 5186 347 (c/w D384; D408; D895) and volume 2 (SACD) PTC 5186 348 (c/w D574; D934 and D940 for piano duet with Fischer playing piano with Helmchen). D385 is on volume 1 and on volume 2 you will find the the same Fantasie D934that Mutter rates so highly. Another account worthy of serious consideration is from Szymon Goldberg (violin) and Radu Lupu (piano). This was set down in London’s Kingsway Hall in 1978. The sparkling Goldberg and Lupu find an abundance of light and shade in this double set of Schubert’s music for violin and piano. Sadly it’s not complete as the virtuosic Rondo Brillant, D895 is missing. The set is on Decca Classics 289 466 748-2 (c/w D385, D408, D574, D934 and D821 for cello and piano with Maurice Gendron and Jean Françaix in mono).
For Eterna Edition the present re-issued Schubert scores are beautifully played and recorded. These performances are worthy to stand alongside the finest accounts although they do not displace them.  

Michael Cookson  

Worthy to stand alongside the finest accounts without displacing them.