Notes and Editorial Reviews
Period performances – and from precisely the right period, too
These sonatas date from 1816-17 and the choice of instruments is precisely appropriate: Midori Seiler plays a Viennese violin made in 1814 by Franz Geissenhof, while Jos van Immerseel’s piano is a copy by Detmar Hungerberg of another Viennese instrument dating from 1814, by Johann Peter Fritz.
The piano has a sweet, clear upper register, ideal for Schubert’s singing melodies, and attractively reedy bass notes. It also boasts a typical range of special effects – a muffled “moderato” pedal and a buzzing “bassoon” stop, heard to great effect in D408’s Minuet. The violin has a bright, penetrating sound (a character that’s emphasised by close
recording) – there are places where a softer, warmer quality would have been welcome, in the trio of D574’s Scherzo, for example. All four sonatas sound delightfully animated, and in the wonderful opening Allegro of D574 Immerseel and Seiler achieve an elegant expressive quality that brings out perfectly each aspect of the music.
But not everything is quite so convincing: in the first two movements of D385 the many little expressive hesitations give a slightly mannered impression, and in D408’s finale I’m troubled by Seiler’s choice of note lengths – her second note seems extraordinarily short (Immerseel doesn’t follow suit) and the three chords at the first forte, played sostenuto, don’t blend with the piano. And though the booklet-note goes into detail about Spohr’s prescriptions for selective vibrato, Seiler’s use of the ornament, tasteful and restrained though it is, seems to belong to the 21st rather than the 19th century. However, these are personal reactions; it’s certainly an interesting, worthwhile disc.
Duncan Druce, The GRAMOPHONE (10/2006)
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