Schubert: Octet in F, D803; Nonet in E flat minor, D79

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WORKS: Octet in F, D803; Nonet in E flat minor, D79
PERFORMER: Consortium Classicum/Dieter Klöcker
CATALOGUE NO: 999 744-2 Reissue (1983)
This is not a disc for those who place a premium on Viennese charm in the Octet. Consortium Classicum offers brisk, bracing readings of the outer movements and Scherzo, generating an exhilarating momentum but finding little room to savour, say, the second theme of the opening Allegro, with its yearning appoggiaturas; and in the finale the breakneck tempo means that the players negotiate the skittering triplets by the skin of their teeth, and have to fall back on the editorial simplification of the most taxing passages. The variations are inventively characterised – the fifth, in C minor, unusually urgent and eerie, sounds more than ever like the ‘Ride to the Abyss’ in Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust. But Klöcker’s phrasing and colouring in the glorious Adagio are distinctly plain alongside Alfred Boskovsky in the echt-Viennese 1958 recording from the Vienna Octet (Decca) or Andrew Marriner on the equally poetic but more symphonically conceived recording from the ASMF Chamber Ensemble. Still, with an effectively managed balance between wind and strings, this reissue certainly has its attractions. And Schubert completists will want the austere, hieratic single-movement Nonet (including a pair of trombones) which the 16-year-old composer solemnly entitled ‘Franz Schubert’s Burial Celebration’. Richard Wigmore