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  Tudor -
  CD 7114
  Schubert: Octet - Scharoun Ensemble
  Schubert: Octet in F major Op. 166 D 803

Scharoun Ensemble Berlin
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Site review by Polly Nomial April 18, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is a fine recording of Schubert's Octet (a composition quite worthy of comparison with the Trout quintet), and comes with a textual variation that I have not previously heard in the finale (more of which later). The players of the Scharoun Ensemble are all members of the Berliner Philharmoniker; some of whom are world famous in their own right like Klaus Thunemann on bassoon. Since making this disc, the violinists have changed (to one of the concertmasters and a "rank and file" player) as have the bassoonist and clarinetist.

Compared to the Vienna Octet recordings on Decca, this is by no means the (largely) sunny Schubert portrayed by their Austrian "cousins" - indeed, the shadowy undercurrents that lurk in the score are brought to the fore in a very convincing manner. The repeats are all observed meaning that relying only on the timings to judge tempi does not work!

The first movement (like the finale) starts with a slow introduction before launching into the main allegro, similar in fact to the 8th (9th for traditionalists) symphony in terms of structure used. However the themes are very different, with the melodies here almost playful. In terms of ensemble, we hear everything one has become accustomed to hearing from the BPO in recent years - phenomenal unanimity of ensemble and of muscial approach. Fortunately, the musical approach is as sensitive as Abbado's touch in Schubert - they have clearly learnt from their former music director. Line flows from instrument to instrument almost without the change in instrument!

The following Adagio is played extremely beautifully indeed but still manages to be played with a sense of freedom for the solo lines and a feeling of forward momentum that is appropriate to music that (unlike the string quintet) shouldn't "stand still". There is real tender phrasing in the dialogue between the tune and countermelodies and one couldn't wish to hear it better played. The music itself is slightly reminiscent of Rosamunde with the bittersweet twisting between sheer delight and sadness-tinged sighing motives.

The dancing Allegro vivace is a fore-runner of Bruckner having a trio within the "scherzo" before the trio 'proper', and is played with grace and a lovely sense of heft to the accents. There then follows a seemingly delightful set of variations but this is where the nightmare-world that Schubert so frequently alludes to in his later works sneaks in - wonderfully realised by the Schauron Ensemble here; there is no "warning" that the mood will descend so suddenly. A Menuetto & Trio follows - more stately than the "scherzo" but still dancelike all the same.

The finale opens with a slow introduction but unlike the largely benign first movement introduction this has some very shadowy figurations. These largely collapse as the main allegro commences but resurface just before the coda (think Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony fate motive in the finale). This recording is unique in my experience that the Schauron Ensemble opt for the far harder version of the text (largely in the clarinet and 1st violin parts) which accounts for a slightly slower sounding tempo than some adopt (N.B. this is slower sounding not actually slower due to the phenomenal amount of space their technique awards themselves). All in all very satisfactory.

The recording itself is transferred at quite a high level (like many chamber ensemble recordings) but is very smooth, so much so that if the articulation of the players wasn't quite so good not all the notes would be audible. There are no details given about the recording which has a pleasing spread of the players and a nice sense of accoustic from the rears when played back in MCH.

Whilst this recording may not be quite as sunny as the Vienna Octet recordings on Decca, I have no hesitation in recommending this fine disc to all who love chamber music and/or Schubert.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and

Works: 1  

Franz Schubert - Octet in F major, D. 803