The Gaudier Ensemble literally launched its recording career (and reputation) with this same work in 1990 on ASV. Well-regarded then, that performance remains one of the better choices today--if you can find it--in a crowded field of similarly excellent versions. This new one on Hyperion does not offer any demonstrative differences in style. Perfect intonation, tonal beauty, impeccable phrasing: it's all here, as reliably as before. Richard Hosford's velvety smooth clarinet playing and first violinist Marieke Blankestijn's sinewy timbre make a beguiling combination, and they receive elegant support from their partners as well as from the recording team.
Also reminiscent of the earlier performance is an unmistakablyRead more laid-back approach to this work, wherein accents are (more often than not) suggested rather than emphasized and the penchant for the "long line" generally overrides pursuits of inflection and variation. In a performance that observes each and every repeat you might hope for some imaginative gestures to creep in every now and then (especially in the multi-faceted fourth-movement Andante), but the Gaudiers play it straight throughout. In the spooky opening to the Finale they do seem to let themselves go a bit in the sudden fortissimo outbursts over the string tremolos, but the effect is more ungainly than intriguing.
As well played as this Octet is, there is no shortage of competing versions, including those led by Gidon Kremer (recently re-released in a budget box from DG), Dieter Klöcker (CPO), Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music Chamber Ensemble, and of course the evergreen 1950s-vintage performance from the Vienna Octet (Decca). This new entrant fits comfortably alongside them as a sort of "equal among firsts".
--Michael Liebowitz, ClassicsToday.com Reviewing original release, Hyperion 67339Read less
Works on This Recording
Octet for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Strings in F major, D 803/Op. 166by Franz Schubert Performer:
Jonathan Williams (French Horn),
Marieke Blankestijn (Violin),
Lesley Hatfield (Violin),
Iris Juda (Viola),
Christoph Marks (Cello),
Robin O'Neill (Bassoon),
Stephen Williams (Double Bass),
Richard Hosford (Clarinet)
Period: Romantic Written: 1824; Vienna, Austria