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CD Review

Franz Schubert

  • Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667 "Trout"
  • Variations on "Trockne Blumen," D. 802
  • Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen, D. 343
Frank Braley, piano
Renaud Capuçon, violin
Gérard Caussé, viola
Gautier Capuçon, cello
Aloïs Posch, double bass
Virgin Classics 5 45563 2 DDD 58:48
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Never has the "Trout" Quintet sounded less joyful and less ebullient. One wonders if perhaps an animal rights organization underwrote this CD in hopes of discouraging fishermen and other interlopers from hanging around the stream too much. This is an interesting interpretation, and quite unlike any other with which I am familiar, because it pays tribute to the composer's tragic, introspective muse, rather than its bright and cheerful counterpart. Can the music carry such unwonted weight? I think it can, but it does so at the price of contrast among the five movements. Even the middle Scherzo, which usually is playful, sounds grim on this recording. This is an interpretation which these five young or youngish musicians have considered carefully. There's nothing haphazard or random about it. If it fails – and I think it will take many more listenings before the jury issues a verdict on this case – it fails nobly on the battlefield, and not flat on its back in bed.

The "Trockne Blumen" Variations for violin and piano are an unusual but appropriate coupling because – like the fourth movement of the "Trout" – they are based on one of Schubert's songs for voice and piano. The last selection seems to be a direct transcription – again, for violin and piano – of one of Schubert's songs. Braley and Capuçon play these two works with a lighter heart – lighter, anyway, than the one that beats in their "Trout."

The booklet's back cover shows the five musicians in live performance, but this is a studio recording, made in Switzerland (La Chaux-de-Fonds) back in 2002. The playing is predictably polished, with no single player upsetting the balance in the "Trout."

You might have a lot of "Trouts" in your CD collection, but you probably don't have one that's close to this one.

Copyright © 2005, Raymond Tuttle