Schubert: Piano Quintet in A D667 (The Trout); Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
WORKS: Piano Quintet in A D667 (The Trout); Lieder
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Steven Lubin (fortepiano); Academy of Ancient Music Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 433 848-2 DDD
The authentic Trout is hardly a novelty these days; another fine performance appeared only last year, from the British group Hausmusik. Latest to join a trend established long ago by Jörg Demus and members of Collegium Aureum, are Steven Lubin and the Academy of Ancient Music Chamber Ensemble. Not long ago, the quest for authenticity in this repertoire would have seemed irksome, even laughable. Now that period performance has finally come of age, there’s little here to offend even the most hardened armchair sceptic. This is a performance to meet every need, whether scholarly or purely self-indulgent!

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Steven Lubin’s fortepiano (after Conrad Graf of Vienna, c.1824) sounds superb, and accords perfectly with the string group, all of whom employ the expected gut strings. Vibrato is minimal, but despite modern predilections, the innocent ear soon adjusts to leaner textures and lower pitch. Questions of phrasing, articulation and tempo have been reappraised, but don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s anything remotely pedantic or joyless about this playing. Speeds are consistently fast; Schubert’s Andante marking for the slow movement is taken at face value, while the bucolic Scherzo romps along splendidly. To complete the disc, the tenor John Mark Ainsley joins Steven Lubin in seven familiar lieder, all of which predate the quintet, but share its watery connotation. ‘Die Forelle’ (The Trout) is an inspired if obvious choice, whilst ‘Der Schiffer’ (The Boatman) typifies the excellence of these performances. A delectable issue, but one would have expected no less from L’Oiseau-Lyre. Michael Jameson