Martin Helmchen

Franz Schubert: Forellen Quintet

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With hundreds of recorded performances of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet available, what is it that distinguished this 2009 PentaTone disc from the rest? Partially the playing, partially the couplings, and partially the sound. Played by pianist Martin Helmchen, violinist Christian Tetzlaff, violist Antoine Tamestit, cellist Marie Elisabeth Hecker, and double bassist Alois Posch, this "Trout" is light, lively, and lyrical, with a singing tone, a smiling interpretation, and a vivacious feeling for rhythm. The players are first-rate by themselves and outstanding as an ensemble, with a tight but relaxed grasp of form and an intuitive sense of tempo. The couplings here are rather unusual: the Variations on Trockne Blumen for flute and piano and the Notturno for piano trio, the former receiving a polished and appealing account by pianist Helmchen with wooden flutist Aldo Baerten and the latter getting a broadly paced but beautifully sculpted reading by Helmchen, Tetzlaff, and Hecker. And the super audio sound by the Dutch PentaTone label is so realistic one cannot only hear Baerten breathe, one can almost smell the wood of his flute. Longtime listeners may already have their favorite recordings of the "Trout" Quintet, but by virtue of the playing, the couplings, and the sound, this one deserves to be at least sampled.

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