SCHUBERT Octet CRUSELL Concert Trio
The spirit of the Schubertiade is easily felt in performances of his Octet: such a convivial, good-humoured work. It was commissioned by Count Ferdinand von Troyer, an amateur clarinettist, and thus the clarinet often steps into the limelight during its six movements. This makes it a natural vehicle for star clarinettists to gather an ensemble for performances. From Wigmore Hall, we had ‘Michael Collins and Friends’ luxuriating in a gorgeous performance. Now ‘Emma Johnson and Friends’ appear on Somm, recorded in concert at Southampton’s Turner Sims.
Live recordings can capture a special spirit but they can also expose flaws where a second take may be desirable. Johnson and Friends give an enjoyable account which I’m sure I’d have warmed to in the hall, but for repeated listening it’s not quite polished enough. I find Johnson’s tone rather nasal, with a rustic quality to the articulation in the bouncing Allegro vivace third movement. I also find The Carducci Quartet’s wiry sound (great for Shostakovich) too aggressive for Schubert.
However, there’s a good deal of vim and vigour about the first movement’s Allegro, the Andante’s variations are amiably presented and there’s a welcome sense of edgy tension at the outset of the finale. But when set alongside Collins and Friends in the mellower acoustic of Wigmore Hall, this new release pales in comparison as a friendly but poorer relation. Johnson, Philip Gibbon and Michael Thompson offer Crusell’s Concert Trio (from the same concert) as a pleasant filler, with a nice sense of interplay and humour.