Schubert: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2; Notturno in E flat, D897; Sonatensatz in B flat, D28

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2;
Notturno in E flat, D897; Sonatensatz in B flat, D28
PERFORMER: Trio Wanderer


Schubert’s later works are often interpreted with a good deal of Romantic hindsight. Yes, his death at 31 was indecently premature, and for much of his 20s he seems to have been aware that his health was in serious danger. But does that mean that all his major mature works have to sound as though they’re ‘half in love with easeful death’? Judging from these performances, I would guess that Trio Wanderer think not. They approach Schubert not so much as an early Romantic, but rather as a fantastically imaginative and generous Classicist, the musical invention very much ‘alive’ on many levels. The sense of sparkling, intimate exchange between the three players is as vital and at times as sophisticated as in Haydn. There’s a tremendous sense of fun in the finales of both trios. Pure delight is conveyed, with barely a hint of nostalgia or Mahlerian nightmare, or any sense that Classical formal containers are being pushed to near breaking-point. If the playing weren’t so delicate, refined, intelligent and colourful it might have felt a bit one-sided. As it is, Trio Wanderer convince that this is a fully valid view of Schubert, brilliantly and feelingly executed. The recording is wonderfully clear, though some ears might take exception to the distant reverberation at climaxes. For a more ‘rounded’ approach, with Romantic warmth, poetry and pathos as well as Classical poise, the Beaux Arts Trio remains special. But this is a strong contender in its own right, which can only add to our understanding of Schubert.