Schubert: Piano Trio in E flat, D929; Sonata in A minor, D821 (Arpeggione)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: ASV Quicksilva
WORKS: Piano Trio in E flat, D929; Sonata in A minor, D821 (Arpeggione)
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble of London
CATALOGUE NO: CD QS 6232
In 1966 the Beaux Arts Trio demonstrated that Schubert’s novel approach to musical structure – expanding the tonal range of sonata form to three keys instead of the customary two and replaying extended passages in strikingly different key regions – conceals an ingenious thematic process more normally associated with Beethoven. Their issue of the E flat Piano Trio from that time has remained a benchmark ever since, with ideally balanced recording preserving this group’s highly involving musical detail with arresting clarity. The intimate exchange between the instruments plays delightfully on the ear throughout this outstanding version.

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On this new release The Schubert Ensemble of London makes a special feature of the score’s dramatic contrasts. These musicians reinforce their bold characterisation of the first movement’s individual themes by including the exposition repeat, and they vividly delineate the various expressive moods in the slow movement and finale. However, the finer details are glossed over by more recessed recording than that given to their rivals.

In the second half of the programme Douglas Paterson (viola) and William Howard (piano) give a finely crafted account of the Arpeggione Sonata (usually played on the cello) that would grace any collection. This duo’s sweet-toned lyricism, invigorated by impressive musical intuition, culminates marvellously in the triumphant resolution from A minor to A major at the work’s conclusion.

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Finally, Paterson’s intelligent transcription of ‘Der Jüngling an der Quelle’ makes an affecting encore, although his performance struck me as more highly charged than is called for by the original song setting. Nicholas Rast