Schubert: Octet in F, D803; The Shepherd on the Rock

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Chamber
WORKS: Octet in F, D803; The Shepherd on the Rock
PERFORMER: Ailish Tynan (soprano), Michael Collins (clarinet), Isabelle van Keulen, Peter Brunt (violin), Lars Anders Tomter (viola), Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Peter Riegelbauer (bass), Martin Owen (horn), Robin O’Neill (bassoon), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0017
Michael Collins, Britain’s leading clarinettist, starts as he means to go on here, a voice of nature growing out of pianist Vignoles’s repeated notes at the beginning of The Shepherd on the Rock. Ailish Tynan’s fast vibrato is sometimes forced under pressure, but more often her vibrant voice perfectly complements her cooler companions. Comparisons with Margaret Price are hard on Tynan, perhaps, but she makes the song her own.

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There are more robust interpretations of the Octet around: the classic Vienna Octet account finds more Austrian lilt and charm, while my own hard-to-find favourite, featuring violinist Oleg Kagan and even more distinguished friends on Live Classics, opens up the abyss at the beginning of the finale more alarmingly. But Collins and his colleagues do remind us how much of this work is at the softer end of the dynamic scale. There’s some wonderful work between the clarinettist and his first violinist, Isabelle van Keulen; a beautifully intoned horn solo from Martin Owen at the end of the first movement and a stark modernity to the end of the second. The Wigmore Hall recording is, inevitably, a little dry and slightly exaggerates the bass, but puts the works across as music in your living room.

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David Nice