Schubert – Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Volume 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: PentaTone
WORKS: Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Vol. 2: Sonata in A, D574 (Duo); Fantasy in C, D934; Fantasy in F minor for Piano Duet, D940
PERFORMER: Julia Fischer (violin, piano), Martin Helmchen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 348 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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The first disc of this extremely gifted pair playing Schubert’s works for violin and piano (reviewed in December) was an utter delight, despite this music being a comparatively unimportant part of the composer’s output.

This second disc is even more appealing, in fact irresistible, but in considerable part because the third item on it is one of Schubert’s supreme masterpieces, the Fantasy in F minor for piano duet. Here Julia Fisher joins Martin Helmchen at the piano (presumably the lower part).

They give a magnificent account of this inspired work, which begins with one of Schubert’s most poignant melodies, which, characteristically for him, becomes still more heartbreaking when it moves into the major. It’s a challenging piece, as one can hear even for Richter and Britten, yet Fischer and Helmchen present as fine as any account on disc.

The first item is Schubert’s last sonata for violin and piano, written when he was 21, delightful but lightweight. But the central item, the Fantasy in C major, from 1826, is a lovely work, opening portentously, but with its central feature a series of variations on the lovely song ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’, which returns at the very end.

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This is still not great music, but the dedication and affection that the players bring to it, without overwhelming it, almost makes it that. They are a marvellous team, evidently giving one another ideas as they go along. I hope they now set about recording Mozart and Beethoven, in their incomparably rich contributions to this repertoire. Benchmark. Michael Tanner