The chance to hear Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata played on an actual arpeggione, which it virtually never is, is an instant enticement here, but listener beware: this recording is very out of tune. As heard here, the arpeggione is more pungent in tone than the cello (which more often than not replaces it in this work), higher in pitch, wider ranged, and less homogeneous in sound from one string to the next. But as an arpeggione player, Deletaille is, it has to be said, lacking. He too often slides up and down into pitches, too often slurs lines and blurs harmonies, and too often lags behind the tempo or falls behind the rhythm. Though Paul Badura-Skoda is a highly skilled fortepianist and a wonderful musician, he's saddled with a partner who can't hold up his end of the deal.
Yet it must be stressed that the flawed Arpeggione Sonata is only half the program here -- and the rest of the program is fabulous. As the fillip, Fuga Libera has included a performance of Schubert's C major String Quintet, his last chamber work and his only chamber work scored for two cellos. The first-rate players here are the Quatuor Rosamunde -- with the equally first-rate Deletaille as second cello. There is no question of intonation here: all five players are individually and collectively in tune. Plus, the ensemble is tight, the forms are cogent, and the energy is endless. Every movement works in this performance -- the enormous opening Allegro ma non troppo, the hushed Adagio, the driving Scherzo, the muscular closing Allegretto -- and the whole is more than the sum of its part: a heartfelt hymn to life and music sung with overwhelming passion and unstoppable energy. Both performances are captured in superbly balanced digital sound by Fuga Libera. For one performance, this is a good thing; for the other, not so good.