Schnabel plays Schubert's Trout Quintet
With the Pro Arte Quartet, remastered for finest sound quality
Artur Schnabel's recording of Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet, with
members of the Pro Arte Quartet augmented by Claude Hobday is rightly
seen as one of the great recordings of its age, and although one might
have wished for a slightly different pairing of string players more
suited to Schnabel's style, this wonderful performance is a definite
I had long intended to continue our exploration of the recordings of both the Pro Arte Quartet and Artur Schnabel with this particular piece, but finally it was re-reading Vikram Seth's excellent novel An Equal Music that prompted me to get these discs out and transfer them.
From a restorater's point of view this recording caused a couple of difficulties en route - the discovery that one of the discs was cracked from edge to centre, and that this crack then continued partway through the other side of the record, threatening to break clean through, almost made me abort the project. Fortunately I was able to get good transfers from this disc - good enough to eradicate all sonic traces of the crack.
Other difficulties included the usual British HMV 'bacon frying' crackle, plus a tendency to overload distortion whenever the double bass played a particularly loud note. I'm pleased to report that both these problems were solved, and the unusual sonic combination of a string quartet comprising violin, viola, cello and double bass comes through as being in excellent balance, both internally, and with the piano. The result is one of my favourite chamber music restorations for quite a while!
SCHUBERT Piano Quintet in A major, D.667, "Trout"
Recorded Abbey Road Studio 3, London, 16 November 1935
Matrix Numbers: 2EA.2529--2538, takes 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 2, 2, 2
Artur Schnabel, piano
The Pro Arte Quartet:
Alphonse Onnou, violin
Germain Prévost, viola
Robert Maas, cello
Claude Hobday, double bass
Bill Rosen's Review
This restoration leaps forth with brilliant piano tone and really resonant gutsy strings
First the sound! For 50 years, I have been listening to this famous
performance on a gray-jacketed EMI "Great Recordings of the Century" LP.
The sound was as gray and as two-dimensional as the cover. Suddenly
the sound of this restoration leaps forth with brilliant piano tone and
really resonant gutsy strings. There seems to be some three
dimensionality in the recording and I sense space between the piano and
strings. Well might the restorer, Andrew Rose, consider this one of his
most successful restorations. Might one ask whether he can do an
equivalent job with Schnabel's Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet?
Unlike Andrew Rose, I feel that Schnabel and the Pro Arte Members are well-matched. This is not a sweet, dreamy Trout. This has vigor, conflict and bite. Schnabel is tough, but does not dominate. The Pro Arte give as good as they get. For example, in the fourth movement variations while the piano frolics and darts, the urgent high trills of the violins pursue it with demonic vigor and do not let it get away. Both Schnabel and the Pro Arte are dedicated classicists and the touches of romanticism (confined to the second movement) are not many. It is not just that this is an historic performance; it is a performance given by artists who are utterly sure of their artistic vision. And that makes it both modern and essential.