Notes and Editorial Reviews
“I feel myself to be the unhappiest, most wretched creature in the world.” Thus, on March 31st, 1824, Schubert wrote to his friend, Leopold Kupelwieser in despair about his physical condition. Fortunately, Count Ferdinand Troyer’s commission for an octet that same year offered the composer new hope.
The Berlin Philharmonia Ensemble’s polished account underlines the light-hearted, serenade-like character of Schubert’s Octet, reflecting the influence of Beethoven’s Septet, on which the work was modelled. However, the overall effect lacks real bite. In this new version, Mozzafiato and L’Archibudelli concentrate on the music’s dramatic potential, highlighting Schubert’s triumph over his mental struggle. Like Hausmusik, Mozzafiato and L’Archibudelli play on period instruments; but generally slower speeds and a richer, more resonant recording reveal a greater wealth of detail and more brightly coloured instrumental timbres. The gloomy, portentous opening Adagio gives way to a romantic, sweeping Allegro; Neidich’s clarinet solo is beautifully focused in the second movement, and the two dance movements are played with abounding Viennese charm.
The present group’s interpretative approach effectively places greater structural emphasis on the fourth-movement variations, based on a theme from Schubert’s opera Die Freunde von Salamanca. Mozzafiato’s and L’Archibudelli’s vivid portrayal of this delightful music – recalling lines from the original, such as “however gloomy and black life is, does not true love brighten it?” – tellingly illustrates the composer’s improved mood. Ultimately, though, Schubert’s psychological battle is fought and won in the symphonically conceived finale, with the chilling andante passages triumphantly resolved by compelling vigour in the allegro sections.
-- Gramophone [9/1996]