Schubert: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout); Arpeggione Sonata, D821; Notturno, D897

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WORKS: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout); Arpeggione Sonata, D821; Notturno, D897
PERFORMER: Jos van Immerseel (fortepiano), Vera Beths (violin), Jürgen Kussmaul (viola), Anner Bylsma (cello), Marji Danilow (double bass)
The catalogues are over-stocked with modern-instrument Trouts, so any prospect of netting another periodist account is enticing. Hitherto, I’d have settled for the 1993 L’Oiseau-Lyre performance by American fortepianist Steven Lubin with members of the Academy of Ancient Music, but this latest offering from Sony is a reading that comprehensively outclasses this previous benchmark recommendation.


Probably the most noticeable point of divergence is that Immerseel’s fortepiano (by 19th-century Leipzig maker Johann Trondlin) has a more recessed and intimate timbre than Lubin’s closely miked (and therefore brittle-sounding) replica of an 1824 Graf instrument. Sony’s booklet explains that the lid remained in situ during the Quintet, so players are never swamped in the reverberant church acoustics used for this recording. The performance is passionately argued, and completely engrossing. Dotted-note exchanges heading up the first movement development have an expectancy never matched in the dutiful AAM version, while the Andante, sometimes a meandering musical backwater, has a keen sense of forward motion. The faster basic tempi also pay dividends in the famous variation movement, emphatically characterised, but pleasingly unaffected. ‘Die Forelle’ itself figures among seven Schubert songs completing L’Oiseau-Lyre’s issue, but this new Trout is definitely firmer fleshed, and much the more flavoursome choice. Sony’s fillers include Anner Bylsma’s contemplative traversal of the Arpeggione Sonata, and a nobly paced account of the E flat Notturno for piano trio. So if you’re still fishing for a historically credible Trout, look no further; modernists, though, will probably find Alfred Brendel’s 1977 recording with members of the Cleveland Quartet irresistible.