Schubert, Spohr

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COMPOSERS: Schubert,Spohr
LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Octet in F, D803
PERFORMER: Vienna Octet
CATALOGUE NO: 466 580-2 ADD Reissue (1958, 1959)
The Vienna Octet’s famous 1958 recording of the Schubert, for many years a benchmark, is essentially a prelapsarian view of the composer, ignoring the darker implications of, say, the Adagio (taken here at a flowing andante) or the shuddering introduction to the finale. The opening movement, too, is distinctly relaxed, with Schubert’s numerous accents often smoothed out. But the players’ charm of phrasing and ease of interplay are delightful, nowhere more so than in the fourth-movement variations and trio of the minuet, with its echt-Viennese lilt. If other groups, including the ASMF Chamber Ensemble and the Vienna Octet in its later, 1990, incarnation, give more probing, symphonic performances – in keeping with modern perceptions of Schubert – this classic version still exudes a unique, old-world Gemütlichkeit. The disc’s attractions are enhanced by the inclusion of the Spohr Octet, one of his freshest and most colourful chamber works, with its pungent, melancholy minuet and ingenious set of variations on Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith. Richard Wigmore