The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A festive performance of Schubert’s sociable masterpiece
Musicians: Benjamin Schmid (violin) Lars Anders Tomter (viola) Jan Vogler (cello) Janne Saksala (double bass) Antti Siirala (piano) Erik Sollid (Hardanger fiddle) Stian Carstensen (accordion)
Composer: Schubert, Tomter/Sollid, Whittall, Schmid/Carstensen

With its unorthodox scoring, Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet is ideal repertoire for the kind of festival that relies on ad-hoc chamber groupings. Such is the Moritzburg Festival, led by cellist Jan Vogler each August at a glorious lake-surrounded Schloss outside Dresden in Germany. But this recording of the ‘Trout’, presented as if from Moritzburg itself, was actually recorded in a Berlin studio last March, where the sound produced is well blended. The players are nonetheless Moritzburg regulars and the performance conveys the spirit of an assorted group of musicians assembled for convivial music making without any one of them hogging the limelight. Indeed, they blend particularly well as a team, though there’s enough differentiation, for instance, to allow the varying instrumentation of the variations to tell. Above all, there’s plenty of bounce to the rhythms and a sense of corporate enjoyment of both the work’s textural subtleties and its melodiousness.

The Quintet is accompanied by a wide-ranging series of ‘Trout Variations’, beginning with Schubert’s original song transcribed for cello and bass, and proceeding, by way of a frothy trip to the Norwegian fjords (courtesy of violist Lars Anders Tomter and Hardanger fiddler Erik Sollid) and a piano miniature by Matthew Whittall, to Benjamin Schmid and Stian Carstensen’s gutsy pot-pourri where the song meets tango, gypsy music and even the Beatles.

Matthew Rye