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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Quintet in A major Trout, D.667 [42:25]
Quartettsatz in C minor D.703 [6:23]
Sonata Arpeggione in A minor, D.821 [20:27]
Borodin Quartet (members); Sviatoslav Richter (piano); Daniil Shafran (cello); Felix Gottlieb (piano); Tokyo Quartet
rec. various locations, 1978-82
ALTO ALC1294 [69:34]

Alto are out and about again in the fields of vinyl. This Schubert chamber grouping is taken from comparatively recent sources. Even so the three recordings are almost thirty-five years old. As is often the case with Alto they are harvested from far and wide.

The principal item is a strong and clean sounding late Soviet-era Trout Quintet. This is taken from a headlining concert in Moscow's Pushkin Museum on 2 June 1980. It's quite a line-up. Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) is the pianist. There are three unspecified members of the Borodin Quartet and, surprisingly enough, the German double bass player, Georg Hörtnagel. This was, after all, a Russian concert in which the other players are Russian. As expected, all the string players sound warmly engaged and Richter balances his celebrity with that of his colleagues in the service of the music. There is no grandstanding in the five players' way with this much-loved work. The variety of moods and catchy inspiration emerges naturally. Richter's piano rather draws attention to the one downside to this recording the sound of which is not quite as rich and haloed as hoped. That aspect really only shows through with the piano, which lacks that ideal bloom. Richter's crisp and crystalline way with this score otherwise sets a welcome tone for Schubert's most famous chamber work.

The Tokyo Quartet was in currency from 1969 to 2013 with various changes of personnel over that period. This tape dates back to 1982. Here the sound is more opulent and nicely complements the virile anxiety of the Quartettsatz. After years of not hearing the Arpeggione Sonata this is my second encounter in a month. The last one was a very agreeable version from Paul Olevsky and Walter Hautzig on Brilliant Classics 95115BR. Daniil Shafran (1923-1997) has been almost completely eclipsed by Rostropovich although Steven Isserlis has been a dedicated advocate for years. The present reading of the Arpeggione with Felix Gottlieb is impressive and has plenty of flicker and flight. The recording was reportedly made in 1978 in the Moscow Philharmonic.

While none are exactly recent there is plenty of face and emotion to all three of these recordings. Two of them present great Russian players in these classic romantic era works. There is no directly comparable competition.

Rob Barnett



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