Schubert: Piano Trio in E flat, D929 (including two versions of finale)

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: MDG Gold
WORKS: Piano Trio in E flat, D929 (including two versions of finale)
PERFORMER: Vienna Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 342 1166-2
In terms of value for money the Philips Duo release of Schubert’s piano trios by the Beaux Arts remains unsurpassed, but this new recording offers a more penetrating performance of the great Trio in E flat. The Vienna Piano Trio presents the work with the original finale, which includes an exposition repeat and two passages totalling nearly 100 bars that Schubert suppressed in the standard published edition. Despite the advantages of the fuller version – most notably, the second omitted passage contains a combination of themes not heard elsewhere – Schubert’s authorisation of the published version is beyond dispute, and so this recording includes it as a supplement.

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Textual comprehensiveness notwithstanding, the primary strength of this performance is its character. In the first movement, the Beaux Arts Trio lovingly details figuration but thereby obscures the vast, spectral landscape unique to late Schubert. The Vienna Piano Trio, by contrast, adopts a marginally quicker tempo that spans phrases rather than emphasising individual beats, and the players are more willing (or able, free from the spotlit sound of the Philips recording) to play really softly when needed. The results are haunting. Pointed articulation of the accompaniment in the second movement might be heard as overly fussy, and dramatic pauses after certain surprising cadential chords in the finale strike me as misguided. Even so, this performance’s combination of elegant polish, committed involvement and ability to establish an evocative dreamscape admirably conveys the frightening inward beauty of Schubert’s work, and refined recorded sound mirrors the performers’ vision. David Breckbill