COMPOSERS: Arr. Hasenorl,Schubert,Strauss
WORKS: Octet in F, D803
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 102 (distr. London Mozart Players, tel 0181 686 1996)
Here is a performance of the Schubert Octet which can hold its own with the best currently available. Above all, it sounds like an interpretation that has matured in the concert-hall, rather than one assembled for the benefit of the microphone. Tempi are judiciously chosen throughout, with the tempo relationship between the slow introduction and the main body of the opening movement correctly worked out, and the finale just quick enough to give the music the lilt it needs without making the most intricate passages sound garbled. (Older editions used to simplify the rhythm of those passages, so that the whole piece could go faster.) There is, too, an effective attacca between the end of the minuet and the dramatic, growling tremolo with which the finale’s introduction begins. Had Schubert, I wonder, been listening to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony? Only the theme of the fourth movement treads a touch heavily, and the final variation of the same piece sounds a little sedate.
The miniaturised transcription of Till Eulenspiegel is a welcome bonus, though for all its humour it actually lacks the mordant wit of Strauss’s original, which is able to play on the grotesque juxtaposition of instrumental solos and a gargantuan symphony orchestra. Misha Donat