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Brahms: Piano Quintet, Op. 34; Schubert: "Trout" Quintet, Op. 114

Budapest String Quartet , George Szell , Brahms , Schubert Audio CD

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1. Qnt in f Op.34: Allegro Non Troppo - The Budapest Qt/George Szell
2. Qnt in f Op.34: Andante, Un Poco Adagio - The Budapest Qt/George Szell
3. Qnt in f Op.34: Scherzo: Allegro; Trio - The Budapest Qt/George Szell
4. Qnt in f Op.34: Finale: Poco Sostenuto; Allegro Non Troppo; Presto Non Troppo - The Budapest Qt/George Szell
5. George Szell Speaks About Acoustical Recording And His Early Studies - George Szell
6. Qnt in A, Op.114, 'The Trout': Allegro Vivace - Josef Roismann/Boris Kroyt/Mischa Schneider/Georges E. Moleux/George Szell
7. Qnt in A, Op.114, 'The Trout': Andante - Josef Roismann/Boris Kroyt/Mischa Schneider/Georges E. Moleux/George Szell
8. Qnt in A, Op.114, 'The Trout': Scherzo (Presto) - Josef Roismann/Boris Kroyt/Mischa Schneider/Georges E. Moleux/George Szell
9. Qnt in A, Op.114, 'The Trout': Theme w. Vars - Josef Roismann/Boris Kroyt/Mischa Schneider/Georges E. Moleux/George Szell
10. Qnt in A, Op.114, 'The Trout': Allegro - Josef Roismann/Boris Kroyt/Mischa Schneider/Georges E. Moleux/George Szell

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional "Trout" makes this an indispensable disc for any admirer of the Budapest Quartet and/or of George Szell. Sept. 1 2006
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
These two recordings were made live at the Library of Congress, where the Budapest Quartet was in residence, respectively in 1945 and 1946; what medium they had been preserved on and served as a basis for these transfers is not made clear by the accompanying booklet. The sound is rather small-scaled, but relatively free of surface noise, except for the beginning of the famous Trout variations, where what appears like surface noise or radio static becomes obtrusive. Still, despite the sonic shortcomings, this is a good interpretation of the Brahms quintet, and a reading of exceptional stature in Schubert's "Trout" quintet.

The Budapest Quartet shows none of the intonational problems that were to mar their later recordings from the mid 50s on. On the contrary, they display fine individual and ensemble tone with only a couple of intonation slips (more in Brahms than in Schubert) obviously due to the live conditions of both recordings. Their collaboration with George Szell, here acting in the unusual role of pianist, results in a perfect balance between piano and strings. Szell had then not yet established his stature as the exceptional and long-standing leader of the Cleveland Orchestra, though his tenure there was about to begin, but he was already very much in view in the US after various engagements with Toscanini's NBC orchestra as well as at the Met. He shows here what a fine pianist he also was, with crisp and energetic playing.

Their Brahms quintet is a good but not exceptional reading. In the opening "Allegro non troppo", Szell and his partners have a tendency to sometimes let the search for interiority prevail over the sustaining of forward-moving tension; there is more adrenalin with Serkin-Busch (EMI) or, among stereo versions, Eschenbach-Amadeus (DG) or Haas-Berlin Octet members (Philips). In the 2nd movement they are true to Brahms' tempo indication of "Andante, un poco adagio" in that they chose a pace that is slightly more animated than what is usually heard, but they lack some interiority in some passages for want of real string pianissimo. In the Scherzo they go for the ominous build-up and release of energy rather than the headlong race - and the effect is slightly ponderous; in addition, despite the slowish tempo, ensemble is pretty ragged at the end of the outer Allegro sections; on the other hand, the players are able to unfold a long lyrical line in the central trio without slowing down the tempo (Brahms marks no tempo change here). Their Finale, with a nice, slow introduction, has plenty of bounce but various intonation problems and even a missed entry from 1st violin Josef Roismann; the coda starts with scrappy ensemble and cautious tempo, but soon develops into great fire and wild passion.

In Schubert, joined by double-bass player Georges Moleux, Szell and the three remaining members of the Quartet favour brisk tempos throughout, and their reading is muscular, firmly accented and full of rhythmic bite, but with no lack of charm and deeply-felt lyricism (try the 2nd movement' cantilena at 1:20). There is no mawkish slowing down of the Scherzo's (3rd movement) central trio section, but in the 4th movement (the famous variations on the "Trout" theme), they make a big slow down for the 5th variation which they treat as a "slow movement" within the variation movement, rather than maintaining a certain unity of tempo, and their coda is genial and easy-going. Their finale again is brisk and spirited, almost hard-driven.

Despite the flaws of their Brahms reading, their exceptional Schubert makes this an essential disc for any admirer of the Budapest Quartet and/or of George Szell.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb, distinctive performance April 21 2006
By WalpoleBassMan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I have performed and listened to the Trout countless times and this masterpiece reveals something more of itself with each listening. The perfomance is enthralling and, for those brought up listening to more "modern" playing, somewhat unusual. The double-bass playing is a little gruff by modern standards (maybe the recording?) but the viola and 'cello ensemble playing is nonpareil and Szell's playing surprised me by it's virtuosity as well as musicality.
(I listened only briefly to the Brahms so I will reserve comment).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For music history not music performance buffs Feb. 15 2011
By Classical Hound - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Rarely do I find a CD that I really don't care for or that is worth writing a negative review about. This is one. This is an older, arguably historic recording, so if you're into that this is for you. If you want to hear George Szell play piano, or want to hear his interesting but exceedingly brief (3:51) interview about his training and the old days of recording (labeled "George Szell speaks about acoustical recording and his early studies"), it's for you. Otherwise it's just not worth the time or money. The sound quality is obviously mediocre and flat given the age of the recording, but in some places it is downright screechy and quite distracting. Significant portions sound well off key, giving the impression that the original (I assume it was a) tape either got stretched out over time, or it was played back for remastering at an off speed (or its age should have been compensated for to get it not to sound so whiny). (Apologies to Adam Abeshouse, restoration and remastering engineer, I'm sure it was much more difficult to do than it even appears.) In the beginning of track 9, the Theme with Variations of the Trout Quintet, the ensemble is downright disorganized and not playing together. This would clearly have been recut in a NY minute had it not been a live performance. It pulls together later in that movement, and track 10, the Allegro, does bring it to a solid, rousing ending.

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