Mozart/Schubert Chamber Works
“The Schubert of this quintet is not the great Schubert, but the one whom we cannot help but love.” Pertinent sentiments (Alfred Einstein quoted by William Kinderman) although listening to this particular performance of the Trout suggests something of a compromise between ‘lovable’ and ‘great’. Brendel is of course the lynchpin and, as ever, balances heart and mind with innate good taste. Time and again I found myself overhearing detail that might otherwise have passed for nothing: every modulation tells (needless to say, this Andante probes deeper than most); every phrase of dialogue has been polished, pondered and carefully considered. And yet it is a dialogue, with the loose-limbed Thomas Zehetmair leading his supremely accomplished colleagues through Schubert’s delightful five-tier structure. The Scherzo and Allegro giusto frolic within the bounds of propriety (some will favour an extra shot of animal vigour), whereas the first, second and fourth movements are rich in subtle – as opposed to fussy – observations. The recording, too, is exceedingly warm, with only the occasional want of inner detail to bar unqualified enthusiasm (sample the main body of the first movement’s development, from say 10'03'' into track 1). As ever, Philips achieve a well-rounded, almost tangible piano tone.
Mozart’s G minor Quartet makes for an unexpected, though instructive, coupling, treading as it does on the Trout’s playful tail. Here again there is much to learn and enjoy, especially in terms of phrasal dovetailing and elegant articulation (Brendel’s opening flourish is a model of Mozartian phrase-shaping). Still, I did sometimes crave rather more in the way of Sturm und Drang – a fiercer, more muscular attack, most especially in the first movement. And yet there will be times when the conceptual unity and executive refinement of this performance – its articulate musicality – will more than fit the bill. Both works include their respective first movement repeats.'