Vocal Trios and Quartets (Ameling, Baker, Schreier, Laubenthal, Fischer-Dieskau, Moore)*

Schubert: Vocal Trios and Quartets. Ameling/Baker/ Schreier/Laubenthal/Fischer-Dieskau/Moore; DGG


All these works embody social rather than individual feeling. So their features, instead of being personally expressive, tend to be composed on the set lines, whether of solemnity or bonhomie, suited to the given occasion. In one sense this music, though admittedly secondary Schubert, is not taken seriously enough. Thus it is assumed that we would rather hear the bass notes Fischer-Dieskau can manage than those Schubert actually wrote - an assumption which seems to me fully as ill-founded as the ensemble sometimes sounds. Again, anyone who had bothered to take counsel about Die Advocaten would surely have found evidence suggesting that Schubert is not guilty of it.

    In another sense however these works are taken too seriously. Let's sample the main dish, Der Hochzeitsbraten - ten whole minutes of last-period Schubert. An engaged couple poach a hare to roast for their wedding (hence the title). They are caught by the gamekeeper, who in turn is taken by the bride­to-be, so much so that he not only forgives their trespassing but himself becomes the founder of the feast. Ali ends happily amid the lilting fa-las of two young hearts swaying in lilac time, while the gamekeeper, true to type, sings (like George Formby) that he would rather have the bridegroom's portion than his own.

    The lyric is by that raffish rake Schober, whose intimate friend Schubert strikes the right note from the first. The wedding-eve trio must have suggested that very congruent triangle in The Marriage of Figaro, which rings a repeated bell (din, din) in the piano part. The tale of the hare is manifestly meant to be served with alt available sauce and spice; instead, it is all rather plain and cold, like a joint recipe from Mrs Beeton and Mrs Grundy. I have known it performed with much more relish by consentient amateurs in private. The exception of course is Gerald Moore, who knows exactly how and when to descend from the Parnassian heights and join the friendly social circle of domestic music-makers. Only in that warm atmosphere can any of these vocal trios and quartets truly thrive: they do not seem to me to survive the exposure of professional performance at the highest level.



The Musical Times, Aug. 1975 (p. 715) © the estate of eric sams