Musical Pointers

Schubert’s quintets are amongst popular canonic masterworks that I tend to avoid hearing often now, and especially on cleaned up digital recordings. I also can become impatient with repeats, sacrilegious though that be thought. Earlier in the week I had listened to the slow movement of the string quintet in an arrangement for piano duet by Hugo Ulrich. Anthony Goldstone in his notes for that fascinating CD [ The Divine Art 25026] adds a disclaimer, suggesting that those who feel affronted by the notion need not play that track! They would be seriously mistaken; it has a certain coolness which I found makes you listen in a different way without the screwing up of tension and intensity with strings vibrato. Goldstone and his wife partner (they have recorded all the legitimate Schubert duos) love it, and so do I.

The main attraction of that fascinating collection of “Unauthorised Piano Duos” of Schubert was a version of the Trout Quintet without strings at all, can you believe it? This came to my notice in the excellent notes by Misha Donat for Hyperion’s new CD of the Trout coupled with the String Trios. Hyperion’s new studio recording with Paul Lewis is immaculate, but bland to my ears and unlikely to prove competitive with favourites of this much loved and oft-recorded work (Gramofile has reviews of some seventy recordings on CD & DVD). But quite another thing is the Goldstone/Clemmow account of the Trout in publisher Joseph Czerny’s 1829 version, which he promoted in tandem with his posthumous publication of the familiar quintet original. Hyperion’s version is worth acquiring for Misha Donat’s extensive researches and detective work, but Goldstone & Clemmow anticipated it in their 2003/4 recording, which really makes you sit up and listen, and is my strongly recommended preference between the two.

—Peter Grahame Woolf