This CD begins by showcasing perhaps one of the biggest shifts in style that can be observed in a single composer, that of Anton Webern. Two Pieces for Cello and Piano, written in 1899, are very much in the romantic idiom -- long lines, beautiful harmonies, singable melodies. But by 1914, the year of the Three Small Pieces for Cello and Piano as well as the comically named Sonata for Cello and Piano, Webern's style had already transitioned sharply into its more familiar, mature sparseness. Cellist Martin Rummel's sound definitely seems more suited to the earlier, more melodic works; his attacks on the later pieces are too nice and too round.
The main work on the album is, of course, the Schubert D. 956 String Quintet, arguably one of the greatest pieces of chamber music ever written, and this recording has several good things going for it. The sound quality is simultaneously exceptionally clear and warm, allowing each instrument to be easily heard while still emphasizing the greater depth that a second cello adds. Martin Rummel joins the Akadémia String Quartet on the traditional guest role as second cellist and his sound blends quite well with the quartet's. There's also a great deal of musical unity and agreement on the musical ideas the ensemble wishes to convey. From a more technical aspect, there are occasional intonation difficulties between the first cello and first violin, particularly when playing in octaves in the first movement. However, this is not enough to distract from the otherwise superior quality of this recording.