SCHUBERT Franz Peter (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor ‘Arpeggione’, D821 & Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major, D929*
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker (cello), Martin Helmchen (piano) & Antje Weithaas (violin)*
This new release from Alpha contains two popular chamber pieces composed by Schubert. It stars the husband and wife duo of Martin Helmchen and Marie-Elisabeth Hecker. This is their second release on the Alpha label; their first, a recording of Brahms’ cello sonatas, gained widespread praise. For the Piano Trio No. 2 they are joined by the German violinist Antje Weithaas.
The Arpeggione Sonata is for me the highlight of this CD. It is so named because it was originally performed on an arpeggionne (a now-defunct instrument that was essentially a bowed guitar), and it is performed here in the transcription for cello and piano. This is a most enjoyable performance – Hecker produces a wonderful tone from her cello and the piano accompaniment is most sympathetic. This will be a go-to version of this work for me. The second movement adagio is mesmerising and the lively final movent just adds to the experience.
The last Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 100, D.929, is a huge masterpiece that, alongside Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ Trio, is among the very greatest piano trios in the traditional repertory. It is huge in length, just under 50 minutes in this performance, and breadth. It is ingeniously constructed, rich in thematic ideas and full of transformations.
In this work, Antje Weithaas combines well with the duo and they masterfully handle the ever-changing textures and illuminate Schubert’s use of colour. Whilst this performance was most enjoyable it will not draw me away from my preferred version by Trio Wanderer on Harmonia Mundi.
In both works one senses these performances are well-considered by the performers who have reached a level of artistic maturity in these works that is not found on all releases. The whole CD is excellently recorded; something that I am coming to expect from Paris-based Alpha Classics who give the fullest attention to the conditions of their recordings.
I look forward to hearing more from the young German cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker. She produces a large, full tone that distinctly reminds me of the young Jacqueline du Pré (whose premature death was thirty years ago yesterday).