SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A, “Trout” – Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin/ Daniil Trifonov, piano/ Hwayoon Lee, viola/ Maximilian Hornung, cello/ Roman Patkolo, bass – DG 

A marvelous new recording of a fearsomely immortal work.

SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A, “Trout”, D 667; Piano Trio in E-flat, “Notturno”, D 897; Standchen, D 957/4; Ave Maria, D 839 – Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin/ Daniil Trifonov, piano/ Hwayoon Lee, viola/ Maximilian Hornung, cello/ Roman Patkolo, bass – DG 00289 479 7570, 55:30 [Distr. by Universal] ****:

Besides the “Club Album” (which I can’t believe she really did), Anne-Sophie Mutter’s recordings have grounded nearly to a halt since 2011, even though she tenaciously sticks to the legendary Yellow Label. There was a Dvorak Concerto album in 2014, and now this very welcome release of she and her cohorts in Schubert’s famous Trout Quintet. With all the recordings of this fishy work out there, should we welcome another?

In this case, yes! Schubert is tailor made for the Black Forest-born Mutter, and, now in her fifties, her deep intelligence and still flawless technique come to bear in one of chamber music’s most beloved works. Completed in 1819, Schubert’s flowing and always fanciful melodic imagination comes full stride in this most lyrical of all chamber pieces. It wasn’t all Schubert though; the idea for the theme and the scoring were those of a friend, the amateur cellist Sylvester Paumgartner, who wished for an identical orchestration as that of Hummel’s Opus 87 Piano Quintet, which was created for piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. In addition, he insisted that the song Die Forelle (“The Trout”) be included. This resulted in one of the most famous sets of variations ever produced, serving as the fourth movement. Mutter and company play the work with a freshness and spontaneity I haven’t heard since the old Budapest Quartet recording, and more recently, the Gewandhaus Quartet.

The tranquil Notturno, never specifically pegged by scholars as to what function it was intended, makes for nice filler, along with the two song arrangements, by Mischa Elman and Jascha Heifetz. These last two are diced chestnuts, and definitely lovely, but make no mistake—the Trout is the star here, and the only reason you need to get this disc. Sound is excellent, recorded at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus.

—Steven Ritter

Drawing of Franz Schubert by Josef Kupelwieser

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