Wigmore Soloists - Schubert Octet in F major, D 803. © 2021 BIS Records AB

CD Spotlight

True to the Composer's Original Intentions

Schubert's Octet, heard by GEOFF PEARCE

'... the sound is detailed and crisp, and the balance is good.'


I waited with anticipation for this disc, as the Schubert Octet is one of my favourite works. I heard it first in a recording that my sister gave me when I was a boy - I am not quite sure why - featuring the Berlin Philharmonic Soloists [Philips 6500 269] and this was my favourite recording for many years. Later I bought the Mullova Ensemble's recording [ONYX 4006] and have enjoyed listening to this many times. How does this current recording compare to it?

This performance by the Wigmore Soloists is very fine indeed and has a lot to commend it. The fine performers blend very well. They are Isabelle van Keulen (violin I), Benjamin Gilmore (violin II), Timothy Ridout (viola), Kristina Blaumane (cello), Tim Gibbs (double bass), Michael Collins (clarinet), Robin O'Neill (bassoon) and Alberto Menéndez Escribano (horn). Overall, the most prominent parts belong to the first violin and clarinet, and they were great, but I was most impressed with the horn player. He has a very difficult part, and it is easy for the odd blemish to creep in, but not so here.

Listen — Schubert: Adagio (Octet in F, D 803)
(track 2, 0:02-0:51) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

This recording of the work stays true to the composer's original intentions, and all repeats are observed so that the performance is about ten minutes longer than many other recordings, and the work's expanse is well realised.

Listen — Schubert: Allegro vivace - Trio (Octet in F, D 803)
(track 3, 3:00-3:53) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

This, the most modern recording that I've heard, takes advantage of the most modern techniques: the sound is detailed and crisp, and the balance is good. However, I also find it seems to lack something that I cannot quite put my finger on. Perhaps I am just being nostalgic, but I felt that the old Phillips recording - an LP I no longer have of the Berlin Philharmonic Soloists - gave me the most satisfaction as far as the sound is concerned. There was a joy and a bloom in that, where this one, at least to me, at times seems somewhat restrained. This is not to take anything away from this current recording that is very fine indeed as far as performance and overall sound is concerned, and as a disc, it would be a great addition and provide much enjoyment.

Listen — Schubert: Allegro molto (Octet in F, D 803)
(track 6, 8:23-9:21) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

The booklet is informative as far as the history of this marvellous piece is concerned.

Copyright © 5 January 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia








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