Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata; Fantasie in C, D934; Rondo in B minor, D895

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WORKS: Arpeggione Sonata; Fantasie in C, D934; Rondo in B minor, D895
PERFORMER: Raphael Oleg (violin, viola)Gérard Wyss (piano)
Raphael Oleg and Gérard Wyss enter a fiercely competitive area, emerging honourably, yet not above criticism. Their performances are masterly; technically adroit, witty and musically credible. But do we really need another Arpeggione, albeit a thoroughly serviceable one? Oleg might have fared better with the A major Duo (Sonata), D574, perhaps the finest of Schubert’s works for violin and piano. But his readings of the C major Fantasie, D934, and the Rondo in B minor, D895, exceed customary expectations, reaching beyond any limitations of the music itself. Both were intended for the Czech virtuoso Josef Slavík, resident in Vienna from 1826. Neither work found favour at the time; one critic present at the premiere of the Fantasie (20 January 1828) noted that ‘The work is rather too long… the audience left in increasing numbers’, a response almost certainly occasioned by Slavík’s unpolished playing. Oleg and Wyss have the true measure of the piece, honouring its introspection and mystery, yet revelling in its virtuoso opportunities. Their account of the B minor Rondo has few equals, but if some collectors choose Gidon Kremer and Valery Afanassiev on DG, then programme planning, and manifestly not musicianship, will be the deciding factor. Denon’s sonics are demonstrably superior; Oleg’s violin (not, incidentally, by one of the great Cremonese masters, but by Jacques Fustier of Lyon, 1987) is faithfully reproduced, whilst piano sound and overall balance could scarcely be bettered. Michael Jameson