Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Quintet in A major Trout D667 (1820) [34:51]
Adagio and Rondo concertante for piano quartet, D487 [13:31]
Peter Rösel (piano); Gewandhaus Quartet Leipzig (Karl Suske (violin); Dietmar Hallmann (viola); Jürnjakob Timm (cello); Rainer Hucke (double bass))
rec. July 1986, Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany
This CD, consisting of two Schubert chamber scores, is one of a series of recordings from Eterna Edition. Berlin Classics have been reissuing recordings from the former East German state-owned label. There are so far 30 CDs available in the series. These include a number of names that were active on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain. Even today they are still little known and include such conductors as Franz Konwitschny, Heinz Rögner, Otmar Suitner and Max Pommer. The original Eterna LP, issued three years after the launch of the CD, offered up Schubert’s Trout Quintet and the Adagio and Rondo concertante both recorded in 1986 at the Dresden Lukaskirche in digital sound. Berlin Classics have added a nice touch by using the cover designs taken from the Eterna LP sleeves. Sadly the booklet notes are entirely in German. The Gewandhaus Quartet Leipzig is the world’s oldest, uninterrupted existing string quartet. Remarkably it was founded over 200 years ago in 1808 by Heinrich August Matthäi, a former leader of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. It has continued to the present day from generation to generation. 

Schubert’s Trout Quintet D667 is one of the most glorious works in all chamber music. It was composed in the summer of 1819 not long after the composer’s return to Vienna from his first spell teaching Count Johann Karl Esterhazy’s two young countesses at Zseliz: then Hungary, now Želiezovce, Slovakia. It seems that the score might have been a commission by Sylvester Paumgartner, a wealthy local patron who was also an amateur cellist. Evidently it was Paumgartner who suggested that it might include a theme and set of variations on Schubert’s own lied Die Forelle (The Trout) D550 (1817). The delightfully vivid opening Allegro vivace truly sparkles. The intensely songful F major Andante is wistfully reflective. The concise A major Scherzo is played with an abundance of warm summer joy which is followed by the freshly compelling and wide-ranging theme and five variations. After a reserved start the judiciously paced Finale in A major becomes another lyrical outpouring of blissful emotion. It will come as no surprise that there are a considerable number of competing recordings. I have three in my collection that have consistently delighted. My favourite remains the evergreen played by Clifford Curzon and the Wiener Philharmonisches Streichquartett. Curzon and the string players are on their finest form with highly polished playing, captivating expressive eloquence and tremendous lyricism. Recorded in 1957 at the Sofiensaal, Vienna, the analogue sound has been successfully re-mastered on the Decca ‘The Classic Sound’ series (c/w Clifford Curzon, members of the Wiener Oktett: DvořákPiano Quintet, Op. 81). Also recorded at the Sofiensaal, Vienna is the 1983 digital account from András Schiff and members of the Hagen Quartet with Alois Posch (double bass). It’s artistically impeccable and high on inspiration and pleasing characterisation. It’s on Decca Ovation 458 608-2 (c/w András Schiff’s reading of Moments musicaux D780). Another winning account is from the starry team of James Levine (piano), Gerhart Hetzel (violin), Wolfram Christ (viola), Georg Faust (cello) and Alois Posch (double bass). I admire their characterful playing which radiates great warmth and dedicated musicality. Recorded in 1990 at the Abersee, Kirche St. Konrad, Austria, the performance is on Deutsche Grammophon Entrée 471 740-2 (c/w the Hagen Quartet’s String Quartet Death and the Maiden, D810 ).

The Adagio and Rondo concertante in F major for piano, violin, viola, and cello, D487 is one of Schubert’s lesser known scores. It seems that itwas composed in 1816 for Heinrich Grob, the younger brother of Schubert’s first love Therese Grob, who played the cello and piano. The score, which has often been likened to a small-scale piano concerto, here takes around thirteen minutes to perform. Pianist Peter Rösel and his colleagues are in excellent form. Their playing of the Adagio with its rather tentative opening feels insightful with a surface calmness belying an undercurrent of unsettling tension. Equally striking is the Rondo with the players skilfully underlining Schubert’s buoyant lyricism and exuberance. Relative to the Trout Quintet there are only a relatively small number of comparison recordings. Probably the most recommendable is from Jenö Jandó (piano) and members of the Kodály Quartet with double bass player Istvan Toth. It was recorded in 1991 at the Unitarian Church, Budapest and can be heard on Naxos 8.550658 with the Trout Quintet

This Schubert reissue boasts a marvellous balance between piano and strings. Ideally I prefer to hear Schubert chamber scores with a slightly warmer sound however this is clear and cool sound with a compelling presence. These straightforward readings are highly appealing and bring an engaging integrity to Schubert’s lyrical writing.  

Michael Cookson

Straightforward and compelling … highly appealing. 

see also review by Rob Barnett of previous release (0014392BC)

Masterwork Index: Trout quintet