ALBUM TITLE: Music@Menlo Schubert 1-8
WORKS: Works by Schubert, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Kreisler, Previn, Brahms and Harbison
PERFORMER: Joélle Harvey (soprano), Sara Couden (contralto), Nikolay Borchev (baritone), Scott Pingel (bass), Alexander Fiterstein (clarinet), Peter Kolkay (bassoon), Kevin Rivard (horn), Danbi Um, Benjamin Beilman (violin), Paul Neubauer, Arnaud Sussmann (viola), Laurence Lesser, Keith Robinson, David Finckel (cello), Juho Pohjonen, Gloria Chen, Gilbert Kalish, Hyeyeon Park, Gilles Vonsattel, Jeffrey Kahane (piano); Escher Quartet, Dover Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Available from www.musicatmenlo.org
Music@Menlo is a festival that takes place each year in the San Francisco Bay Area, in which musicians gather for an ‘immersive’ experience, which I think means that they play, eat and sleep music, primarily of one composer, but with others by whom he was influenced, whom he influenced, and so on. Last year the chosen immerser was Schubert, and the result on CDs is a package of eight discs (also available separately). They consist of most of Schubert’s chamber music, with the exception of his piano trios; also quartets by Mozart and Beethoven, and Beethoven’s genial Septet; one full disc of some of his most familiar Lieder; and a few odd items, such as a Vocalise by André Previn.
As usual, with a collection such as this, the question arises as to who might be the target audience, and whether they felt that they had done well. The performers, though none of them is completely unknown, are not among the great names of the time, and though that doesn’t necessarily mean much, in this case I can easily think of every item in this collection being readily available in a better performance, where one can choose couplings. Also, the Lieder disc has no texts, which I regard as a crime punishable by non-purchase, even if one is directed to a website. Also the solo voices, a fine Slavic baritone and a shrill soprano, are too closely miked to give pleasure.
The chamber music performances are mainly very good, with yet another intense rendering of the String Quintet in C major, and a delightfully bubbly account of the Trout Quintet, with an admirable pianist, Jeffrey Kahane. It is preceded by a performance of the song which provides the melody for the variation movement of the Quintet, and followed by an account of Liszt’s transcription of the song. The great quartets by Schubert’s influences are the two movements of Haydn’s last quartet; the great D minor Quartet K421 by Mozart, in a searching account; and Beethoven’s Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131, which made a particularly profound, indeed violent impression on Schubert. No complaints about any of them, and for someone looking for an introductory set of eight CDs of Schubert and associates, worthwhile.