Christine Busch / France Springuel / Jan Vermeulen

Schubert: Complete Works for Fortepiano Trio

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The complete works for piano trio by Franz Schubert include, in addition to the two major trios of the composer's last year, the Notturno for piano trio in E flat major, D. 897, which was probably an alternative slow movement for the Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, D. 898, and a one-movement Piano Trio in B flat major, D. 28, written when he was 15. The chief attraction, though, is not this pair of little-recorded works but the historical-instrument forces, most prominently the fortepiano of Belgian keyboardist Jan Vermeulen. The instrument, built in the early 1830s on a Viennese design of 1825, is presumably about as close as could possibly be to what Schubert had in mind as a state-of-the art sound; this isn't the only Schubert recording on historical instruments available, but from the point of view of sheer authenticity it's one of the most ambitious. The Piano Trio No. 1 is the more successful of the two full-length trios. Vermeulen's fortepiano is of the sort that, although it trails a modern grand in sheer volume, makes up for that in sharpness of accent and variety of dynamics, and the first movement comes out as an expansive, booming, Beethovenian thing. The ensemble work between Vermeulen and string players Christine Busch (violin) and France Springuel (cello) is tight throughout, but the somewhat rushed Piano Trio No. 2 misses the dark side of that work. On balance, though, there is a lot here to interest those exploring the uses of historically authentic instruments in music of the early 19th century.

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