Schubert: Piano Quintet (Trout); Piano Trio in E flat; Ständchen; Ave Maria

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hwyoon Lee, Maximilian Hornung, Roman Patkolo and Daniil Trifonov (DG)

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Schubert Piano Quintet (Trout); Piano Trio in E flat; Ständchen; Ave Maria
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Hwyoon Lee (viola), Maximilian Hornung (cello), Roman Patkolo (bass), Daniil Trifonov (piano)
DG 479 7570 55:30 mins

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When big-name soloists collaborate in chamber music, the results can be marvellous, as they were with Artur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky in piano trios; or they can be catastrophically bad, as in various performances I can think of but would rather not. In the present case we have a couple of major soloists, the veteran violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the comparatively new star Daniil Trifonov, together with three other players on instruments which sport fewer celebrities; and then there are the CD producer and engineers to take into account. The latter are to blame, at least in part, for the fact that Schubert’s adorable Trout Quintet emerges as more of a shark, or at least a dolphin.

This is not one of Schubert’s great deep late utterances, like the String Quintet in C major, D956, or the later string quartets. It is delightful music to be played possibly by a group of enthusiastic amateurs, with the pianist especially having at least a Grade 8 technique. But it is emphatically domestic music, and the thing that strikes you as soon as this disc starts is the dynamic scale of the performance, the huge sound that the violinist and the pianist are getting out of their instruments, as if they take it for granted that they are playing in a large concert hall. The results are that long before the end of this rather discursive piece one grows tired of its seeming presumptions. When the one movement of the lovely E flat major Piano Trio takes over, it immediately strikes a more intimate note, and one realises what kind of sound one wishes there had been in the Quintet. The arrangements of two of Schubert’s most famous songs, ‘Ständchen’ and ‘Ave Maria’, for violin and piano, strike me as mere failures of taste.

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Michael Tanner