SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet in A, D 667, “Trout Variations”; The Trout, D 550; LARS ANDERS TOMTER/ ERIK SOLLID: Fjellorreten; MATTHEW WHITTALL: Hors d’oeuvre; BENJAMIN SCHMID/ STIAN CARSTENSEN: Forelle Blue – Jan Vogler, cello/ Antti Siirala, piano/ Benjamin Schmid, violin/ Lars Anders Tomter, viola/ Janne Saksala, bass/ Erik Sollid, hardanger fiddle/ Stian Carstensen, accordion – Sony Classical 88697892622, 57:39 ***1/2:
Cellist Jan Vogler’s Moritzburg Festival (near Dresden) provides an idyllic atmosphere for the pursuance of excellence in chamber music production. The festival has already made some exceptional recordings, and were it not for the overindulgent nature of this one it could have joined them.
To start with the Trout—while not as energetic and wonderfully tight as the old Marlboro Festival recording (also on Sony) this one is remarkably unified and spirited for a group of players who don’t spend most of the year together, as was the old Sony. Tonal qualities are excellent, and Schubert’s sometimes tricky scoring (piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass, as opposed to the normal string quartet in this genre) is fully managed here, even reveled in as some wonderful sonorities are put forth. Indeed, the players seem to find something new to say, bringing a fresh sense of discovery to a work that is overplayed and over-recorded to say the least. But with no fewer than 115 other recording available, it can hardly be said that it tops the list, though it does hold its own with most of them.
It’s the remainder of the disc that gives me the most concern. The musicians have all decided to write their own versions of the “Trout”, approaching the task similarly to Schubert, taking the song and offering interpretations of it. So we have the original song followed by three takes from the five musicians, interesting and even very clever (the use of the hardanger fiddle is especially beautiful), but ultimately not that worthwhile from the standpoint of repeated hearings on a CD. This would be something truly wonderful to hear in a concert—and I hope this is what they did—but setting it down for posterity seems to me a little self-willed and not really acceptable filler for Schubert’s masterpiece; more genuine Schubert would have been better.
However, the recorded sound is bright and clear, and perhaps others will enjoy this. I did, but don’t think I want to hear the fillers again.
Kubelik soars, in response to the “Prague Spring” of 1968…