WORKS: Symphony in C (Grand Duo); Rendering
PERFORMER: Houston Symphony/Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7382-2
It was Schumann who proclaimed that the largest and most symphonically inclined of Schubert’s piano duets must be an actual symphony in disguise; and Joseph Joachim who eventually orchestrated the Grand Duo – not without help from his friend Brahms. The scoring is as professional as one would expect, but the enterprise does little more than reinforce one’s belief in the thoroughly pianistic quality of Schubert’s wonderful original.
As a former duettist himself, Christoph Eschenbach knows better than most how the piece should go, and sensibly ignores Joachim’s misconceived view of the finale as a comfortable Allegro moderato (Schubert’s marking is actually Allegro vivace). In other respects, though, this is a disappointingly pedestrian performance, and the constricted recording does nothing to mitigate the routine orchestral playing.
The same, alas, holds good for Berio’s Rendering – not, thank goodness, an attempt to complete the often very beautiful sketches Schubert left behind for a D major symphony just a few weeks before his death, but a ‘restoration’ in which the gaps in his draft are rendered as fragments of original Berio that seem to leave Schubert’s material floating in a kind of dream-space. There is still room for a first-class recording of this fascinating act of homage. Misha Donat