Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: String Quintet in C, D956
PERFORMER: Ensemble Wien
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6446-2
In the Ensemble Wien’s recording of Schubert’s String Quintet, a double bass plays the second cello part at normal pitch. It is a serious miscalculation in this work expressly demanding two cellos. Schubert’s greatest chamber work for strings draws its distinctive sonority and valedictory character primarily from its instrumentation; beyond questionable novelty value, it’s difficult to find artistic virtue or textual precedent for recording it in this fashion. But agile bassist Josef Niederhammer manages his part (including the difficult triplet figurations in the central episode of the Adagio) with ease, and his colleagues, three of whom step from the ranks of the Vienna Philharmonic, play capably enough. While I’d happily overlook tampering of this sort in a Classical serenade or divertimento, Schubert’s magisterial quintet just isn’t the place for it. I’ve looked forward, though, to the promised new version of D956 from the Petersens and cellist Michael Sanderling with great anticipation. High expectations are copiously rewarded, and this account has you on the edge of your seat from the start, and keeps you there. No single version of the Quintet is ever likely to satisfy totally, but this finely calculated and beautifully recorded performance leaves little of significance unsaid. Michael Jameson