SCHUBERT Works for Four Hands
I didn’t manage to catch Vol 1 of Jan Vermeulen and Veerle Peeters’s Schubert duets series, nor have I heard much of Vermeulen’s traversal of the solo works. Judging from this second duets volume, that’s my loss and a dusty browse in the Gramophone library is surely on the cards. The piano is a Leipzig model from the later 1820s and is finely voiced, capable of a wide variety of expression, despite that familiar chalkiness as the notes rise above the treble clef.
The programme is attractive, too, offering an opportunity to hear the charming Andantino varié in the context of the complete Divertissement on French Themes (D823) containing the march and rondo that were eventually published separately. The A major Rondo (D951) is a refreshing alternative to the Lebensstürme composed the previous month, and the B flat Variations (D603) are just as harmonically searching (complete with a crib from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony that I hadn’t registered before) but even more Italianate and virtuoso than the A flat set that seems to be more regularly recorded these days.
And, of course, the F minor Fantasie is pretty much obligatory these days. This is where the Tröndlin instrument really comes into its own, its range of sounds under the fingers of this Belgian duo responding beautifully to the emotional spectrum of this large-scale work from Schubert’s final year. Schubert’s contribution to the duet repertoire is the most generous, varied and important of any, not to mention some of the most instantly likeable, from the entertainment of the many strings of dances and marches militaires to the intellectual challenges of works such as the Fantasie, and this looks as if it could develop into a series well worth following.