The best thing a piece of music criticism can do is make you want to hear the music. And the best thing a performance of a piece of music can do is make you realize in particular how great the music is.
The best thing this review can do is get the potential listener to hear this disc because the performances do the best thing a performance can do. Although there are compelling performances of Schubert's music for violin and piano -- one thinks immediately of Gidon Kremer's recording with Oleg Maisenberg -- these recordings by Ulf Hoelscher and Karl Engel from the late '70s are even more compelling, because while Kremer dominates the music and the performance, Hoelscher inhabits the music and cohabitates with Engel. In other words, in Hoelscher and Engel's performance, one hears Schubert, glorious Schubert. And while there are those who will argue that Schubert's songs or his piano music or his chamber music or his later symphonies are the most glorious Schubert, an argument could be made as well for his music violin and piano. Listen just to his late Fantasie, D. 934, a virtuoso, lyric, dramatic, epic six continuous movements in one work drawn from Schubert's sublime Rückert setting "Sei mir gegrüsst!" In Hoelscher and Engel's performance, the work ranks not only with Schubert's greatest masterpieces from his final year but with the greatest works of the nineteenth century for violin and piano. And every performance of every work on these discs is on the same level. Anyone who loves great Schubert or great music will love these discs. EMI's later stereo sound is close and real.