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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Trio in B flat, D581 [22:15]
String Quintet in C, D956 [56:37]
Aviv Quartet
Amit Peled (cello)
rec.19-22 May 2018, Eglise de Château-D’Oex, Switzerland
NAXOS 8.573891 [78:58]

The word which seems to best sum up this performance of the Schubert Trio is Affectionate. Possibly this is a performance which gives us as much an insight into the members of the Aviv Quartet as it does into the music itself, but given that Schubert was a very sociable man, one can imagine that this is the kind of performance which reflects his ideas, without imposing any further personality on the music. In the first movement there is a beautifully affectionate dialogue between violinist Sergey Ostrovsky and cellist Daniel Mitnitsky with violist Noémie Bialobroda looking on affectionately, while Ostovsky’s delightfully mellifluous solo flourish during the variations of the second movement has none of the showy virtuosity it sometimes takes on. The Rondo finale is model of delicacy, discretion and poise.

Continuing the one word idea, the Quintet receives a performance which might be described as Spacious. Here, again, the Aviv Quartet (complete with second violinist Philippe Villafranca) along with guest cellist Amit Peled do not so much assert individuality on the performance as simply sit back and the let the music flow effortlessly. Perhaps this lack of interpretative involvement results in a certain absence of personality, and in that magnificent Adagio, surely one of the greatest movements in the entire chamber music literature, one certainly feels that something has been missed in the comfortable ease with which these players approach the work. However, the very opening of the work seems less turbulent and more measured than usual, and this pays dividends in revealing so much of the inner detail (despite a slightly hefty cello pizzicato). Similarly, the finale has more the feel of a stately dance than the kind of energetic romp it often turns out to resemble.

All in all, these performances have much to commend them and very few areas of contention. Schubert is well served, and the general atmosphere of geniality does not in any way diminish the sheer genius which is at the heart of these two works. Both receive other performances on record which are more memorable and assertive, but I very much like the direct and honest approach of the Aviv Quartet which puts the music very much to the forefront and keeps interpretative idiosyncrasies well out of the picture. A comfortable recorded sound from a Swiss church seems ideally suited to this playing.

Marc Rochester

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