Schubert: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout); Adagio and Rondo concertante, D487

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout); Adagio and Rondo concertante, D487
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10021
The ASMF players offer an appealingly limber, up-tempo Trout, suffused with the spirit of the dance. Though pianist Hamish Milne is the fulcrum here, the partnership between keyboard and strings is close and selfless. Schubert’s delicious dialogues and counter-melodies unfold with seemingly instinctive ease, phrasing has an unforced expressiveness and the players are invariably responsive to the composer’s breathtaking shifts of key.

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Competition in this work is, of course, awesome. And excellent as they are, the Academy players don’t quite match Alfred Brendel and co. (Philips) or, my favourite, András Schiff and the Hagen Quartet (Decca) in sheer individuality: in particular, Schiff and his partners find both more Viennese charm and more reflectiveness in the work, turning the trio of the scherzo into a dream-interlude and bringing out the finale’s balletic rather than military-march associations. But no one hearing the Academy’s exuberant performance of a work that is essentially about enjoyment is likely to feel short-changed; and the disc’s attractions are enhanced by the elegant, sparkling reading of the rare, early Adagio and Rondo concertante. The recording balances intimacy and warmth, though I could have done with a touch more definition from the double bass in the Trout. Richard Wigmore