Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bridge's valuable series of the Budapest Quartet's Library of Congress concerts continues with the pairing of Schubert's sunny "Trout" Quintet and Franck's hothouse Piano Quintet. The fine pianist in both works is Artur Balsam, once known as the accompanist to the stars and here shining brightly as a peer among equals, his singing tone, precise articulation, and idiomatic phrasing matching more renowned keyboard artists in these works. The Schubert is especially well done; several recorded accounts of this staple of the Budapest's repertoire are available, this one as convincing as any of the others I've heard. They're joined by bassist Julius Levine, a regular presence in chamber ensembles of the 1950s and '60s, who's probably played in more "Trouts" than any bassist in the past half-century. The first movement has plenty of sparkle, the expansive Andante is soulfully done, and the variations movement never flags. The fly in this particular ointment is the 1956 sound: adequate but with occasional shrillness in the upper reaches of the violins' register. But Levine's bass comes through, unlike many 1950s recordings of the Trout.
The Trout's sound seems positively state-of-the-art alongside its discmate, also a frequent presence in the Budapest's concert programs, whose dense textures suffer from airless engineering that obscures detail and robs the Lento of much of its sensuality. Balsam and the Budapest are fiery in the outer movements and play with great feeling in the Lento, but this 1953 recording makes for uncomfortable listening. Budapest Quartet fans should know that the ebullient Alexander Schneider isn't on this disc (the second violin in the Franck is Jac Gorodetzky). Otherwise, the lineup includes the usual crew from the late 1950s and early 1960s: Joseph Roisman, first violin, Boris Kroyt, viola, and Mischa Schneider, cello.
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com