Mozart; Schubert

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart; Schubert
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart; Schubert
WORKS: Piano Quartet in E flat, K493 – Mozart; Piano Quintet in A, D667 (Trout)
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman (piano); Zukerman Chamber Players
CATALOGUE NO: 88697160442

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When I was an undergraduate, one of my revered professors maintained that he needed to observe a sharply restricted trout diet, since hearing Schubert’s Trout Quintet meant that its tunes would pervade his idle moments for up to a year on end. This new recording, however, makes me question whether the work is invariably infectious. I have long respected the work of Pinchas Zukerman and Yefim Bronfman, but these performances hardly show them at their best. Zukerman and his string-playing colleagues have some expressive moments but sometimes allow their intonation to stray from the highest standard. Bassist Joel Quarrington seems less than satisfied with playing a supporting role; his contribution thus occasionally results in intriguing insights but more often makes this listener wish for a more collaborative concept. The most disturbing drawback of this performance, however, is its failure to convey the effervescence and joie de vivre that make this work so beloved. Some blame must be placed at Bronfman’s door. He often sounds like he’s trying to be meticulous with articulations, rhythms and balance, but he insists on these subtleties in a way that prevents the music from coming to life. He is not the only wet blanket: how can all these players begin the finale with such a lack of sparkle? The MDG recording by Christian Zacharias and the Leipzig Quartet is preferable on that score. The account of Mozart’s E flat Quartet is more successful, sometimes suggesting an apposite attitude of maturity and depth, but it sounds earthbound beside the recording featuring Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma and friends. David Breckbill