SCHUBERT Trout Quintet BRAHMS Piano Quintet
Two Trouts, one frolicking in the Oder, the other freezing in an Alpine stream in the skiing region around Chamonix. Two markedly different interpretations, too, the Silesians performing the Trout as small-scale symphony, the French ensemble offering chamber music writ small, as if performing in their own private Schubertiade.
The Silesians’ sound is built on the firm foundation of Krzysztof Korzen´’s satisfyingly cavernous bass, and the microphones are trained on the strings, leaving the piano sounding a little distant, sometimes phasing in and out of the sound picture. The ear soon adjusts, nevertheless, and the imaginative yet natural phrasing employed by these players makes this a particularly fine reading. There’s a special Viennese lilt to the closing minutes of the variations and a gambolling simplicity to the rustic finale that demonstrate the intelligence and affection with which this group play the work.
Where the Silesians play to the back of the hall, the French ensemble adopt a more intimate approach. The quality of the interplay between them is admirable but, in playing to each other rather than to the back rows, the effect is one of reticence, almost of self-effacement. They are also a notch slower than the Silesians almost everywhere. The contrast is heightened when listening to the two recordings in close succession; both approaches are valid and both bring rewards but, for this listener at least, the Silesians are the more communicative, carrying you along in the irresistible joy of Schubert’s effusion of melody.
The Silesians turn off the sunshine for their coupling of Brahms’s Piano Quintet, revelling in the intensity of Brahms’s full-throated Sturm und Drang. The French group shed three players, leaving just Guillaume Chilemme and Nathanaël Gouin to play the late Fantasie for violin and piano; the microphones move in to capture the detail they mine from this miniature masterpiece, Chilemme’s tone sweet with a touch of graininess.
Both discs have much to say in this music and both Trouts (pleasingly given as ‘Pstrąg’ on the Polish disc) are finer than the recent Mutter/Trifonov (DG, 12/17), which mistook speed for affection and rather tripped itself up too often for pleasurable listening. But a big fish or a little fish? The choice is yours.