Schubert/Wolf/Mozart

Our rating 
1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert/Wolf/Mozart
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout); Italian Serenade; Serenade in G, K525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
PERFORMER: Takács Quartet; Joseph Carver (double bass), Andreas Haefliger (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 460 034-2
This unprecedented coupling of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade and Mozart’s perennial Eine kleine Nachtmusik is enterprising, though I can’t help feeling that this issue is aimed primarily at the dinner-party set. Musically discerning listeners will find these plain-dealing performances safe, inoffensive and tediously strait-laced. The booklet notes, too, are basic; there’s no recording data and no mention of keys, far less of Köchel or Deutsch catalogue numbers. Perhaps Decca sees this as a programme of trendy Tafelmusik – up-market wallpaper music not to be taken too seriously; at today’s prices, we deserve far better.

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Were it not for very superior recorded sound, it would be tempting to ditch this Trout outright in favour of numerous cheaper and better alternatives. The Takács, of course, is a highly regarded ensemble, and in pianist Andreas Haefliger (with whom it has already recorded Schubert’s Notturno, D897) it has an adroit collaborator. Every note and nuance might well be realised with consummate skill, but this is one of the most perfunctory and dull traversals of this over-recorded masterpiece I’ve yet encountered.

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Among modern-instrument performances, Alfred Brendel’s matchless 1977 account with members of the Cleveland Quartet remains pre-eminent (even without fillers and at full price), while the classic 1957 Vienna Octet version with Clifford Curzon (a mid-price Decca reissue) still retains a niche in the catalogues, and may be highly commended. Cash-conscious collectors should seek out the fine Kodály Quartet reading with Jandó – if you can’t justify shelling out on Brendel’s Philips version, this bargain Naxos offering certainly won’t let you down. Michael Jameson