Schubert, Hummel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hummel,Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout), Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Trio Wanderer; Christophe Gaugué (viola), Stéphane Logerot (double bass)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901792
Schubert was a great admirer of Hummel, and these two quintets make an ideal coupling, the one quintessentially Viennese, the other at once more Classical and more serious-minded. The outer movements of the Hummel, in the unusual key of E flat minor, temper Beethovenian passion with the composer’s trademark lyrical suavity and keyboard effusiveness. There is a specially memorable minuet, half-agitated and half-jaunty, and a brief Largo whose rhapsodic piano writing prefigures Chopin. The augmented Wanderer Trio brings to this delightful work all the élan and imagination one could wish, building powerfully in the first movement’s dramatic development and shaping the lyrical melodies with unforced eloquence. A special word, too, for the deft, sparkling playing of pianist Vincent Coq in Hummel’s virtuoso sallies.

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The Trout is also thoroughly enjoyable, with the emphasis on the music’s rhythmic verve (I’ve never heard the scherzo more infectiously done) and alfresco holiday spirit. This is not a performance to linger over poetic detail; and you may feel that in the first movement, especially, the players skate too easily over Schubert’s magical distant key shifts and mysterious pools of quiet. But the Wanderer’s athleticism and joy in witty and exuberant interplay (an impression enhanced by the unusually clear definition of the double bass) are certainly invigorating. And if the Hummel coupling appeals, this can be confidently recommended. My own taste, though, tends towards the rather more subtle, probing performances by Brendel and friends (Philips), or, even better, András Schiff and the Hagen Quartet, who mingle Viennese charm with an awareness of evanescence and moments of uncanny dreamlike delicacy. Richard Wigmore