SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major, D. 929; “Trout” Quintet in A Major, D. 667 – Trio Wanderer/ Christophe Gaugue, viola/ Stephanie Logerot, double bass – Harmonia mundi HMX 2908748. 80:27 (6/23/17) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] *****:
Two chamber music Schubert marvels from the archives of the Trio Wanderer celebrate their 30th anniversary.
Schubert began his E-flat Major Piano Trio in 1827, a monumental work of pointed emotional contradictions and even periodic anguish. Robert Schumann took careful notice of this music, calling the opening Allegro a “furious meteor.” Comprised of four themes, the first of these undergoes the least transformation, while the last becomes a principal motif for the dramatically virile score, which expands to a breadth exceeded only by the “Great” C Major Symphony.
Movie as well as music lovers know the poignant Andante con moto through the vehicle of director Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 period drama Barry Lyndon, one of the more realistic treatments of military life, based on Thackeray’s novel. This remarkable, frequently haunted movement enjoys the splendid benefit of Raphael Pidoux’s resonant cello. This melancholy theme will return in the Allegro moderato finale, a kind of tragic reminiscence. The 2000 recording remains attractively bright in all parts, with the Scherzando’s canon figures lit by light, luminous figures from Vincent Coq’s keyboard. The central section of the movement suggests one of Schubert’s waltzes or instrumental laendler. The rondo-sonata structure often endures passionate and virtuosic interruption by concertante elements in running figures that suddenly erupt into martial gestures. The coda attains a sweep that took Schumann by storm; and when we consider how Schubert had felt perpetually intimidated by the musical presence of Beethoven, we too can find no reason for envy.
The ministrations of violinist Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian require no fewer kudos, his exemplary intonation and applied vehemence or restraint impressive, as Schubert asks. The Trio came to published in 1828, the one chamber work so received before his untimely death on November 19, 1828. When the publisher requested the dedication from Schubert, he replied with an acerbic comment: “This work is dedicated to no one, except to them who take pleasure in it.”
Schubert’s charming “Trout” Quintet (1819) comes out of a request from the composer’s acquaintance Sylvester Paumgartner, a mine owner who bestowed patronage on the village of Steyr, Austria, and who admired Schubert’s lied Die Forelle (1817), D. 550. Beguiled by the village and the cordial atmosphere, Schubert accepted the commission to score a chamber music work in the manner of Hummel, with its substitution of a double bass in lieu of a second viola or cello. Cheerful and robustly energetic, this masterpiece abounds with melodies, which Schubert lavishes upon us freely, in grand fellowship.
This smoothly-wrought performance (2002) simply sings in polished harmony from the first notes of the Allegro vivace. First violin Phillips-Varjabedian and pianist Coq seem to engage on a celestial level entirely their own, and they have to be reminded by the tenor and bass instruments to return to earth. The persistent sequences of liquid arpeggios in the piano part well anticipate the lied’s full appearance with six flowering variant in movement four. Coq’s piano part is no less notable in that the keyboard serves as a melody instrument when the hands move an octave apart on the same line of music. The constant, alertly active response between the keyboard and the complement of strings makes this entire performance irresistible. My unbridled affection for cellist Raphael Pidoux’s playing justifies itself once more, at variation five of the “Trout” movement, just after the d minor variant, wherein the trout’s fate will be sealed by the fisherman and his rod. Pidoux’s cello urges a sweet resignation, that the “trout” may perish physically but will endure in a life of eternal metaphor.