Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Schubert & Mahler from Nuremberg

Schubert: Piano Trio No. 1 in B♭ D898 (1827)
Mahler: Symphony No.4 in G (1899/1900 rev 1901/1910) arranged for ensemble by Erwin Stein (1921)

Susanna Andersson – soprano; Jörg Krämer – flute; Michael O'Donnell – oboe; Eberhard Knobloch – clarinet; Andrew West – piano; Rita Kaufmann – harmonium; Kevin Hathway and Claire Hasted – percussion; Marianne Thorsen (Schubert only), Vesna Stankovic and Fiona McCapra – violin; Nicholas Barr – viola; Pierre Doumenge (Schubert only) and Sally Pendlebury – cello; Tae Bun Park - double bass; Peter Selwyn – conductor

Nuremberg International Chamber Music Festival at Wigmore Hall
29 September 2009

Without further ado, let me tell you that this was a splendid show in every way. The performances were as perfect as one could wish for and, best of all, there was a real sense of communication between these young players and the audience.


Schubert’s Trio is one of those large works he wrote after being diagnosed with syphilis in 1823. It’s playing time of nearly an hour in no way seems too long. As with his other large scale works from the last five years of his life, the material needs time to allow the musical argument to unfold at its own pace. This performance, by Marianne Thorsen, Pierre Doumenge and Andrew West was magnificently virile in the first two movements – the first full of fanfare–like ideas, counterbalanced by lyrical material, encouraged some fiery playing – and the slow movement found the players deep in passionate thought. By contrast, the third and fourth movements were all play. The scherzo was buoyant and bouncy and the rondo finale was full of good humour. The players understanding of, and obvious love for, this work shone through their interpretation which was, quite simply, superb.


Exactly the same can be said of the performance of the Mahler Symphony. It is fascinating to hear this version of the work for it is as if the flesh has been removed from the body and only the necessary organs required for life have been left for our appreciation. Such is the clarity of this arrangement – made for Schonberg’s Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen (Society for Private Musical Performances) – no critics allowed! – we can hear every phrase, every thought as the music passes before our ears. The slow movement, in particular, was a lesson in how to hold an audience spellbound as the music slowly unfolded in the quietest of voices until the emotional outburst towards the end cried out to us in full throated anguish. It was fascinating to hear this group – really an ensemble of soloists – relishing the challenges of making a full orchestral score work in miniature under the quite inspired guidance of Peter Selwyn. My only reservation about this performance was the soprano soloist – Susanna Andersson – in the last movement. This is no criticism of her, but I do feel that a big female voice is never right for this child’s view of heaven*. However, a child’s voice wouldn’t be able to hold the line, so what are we to do? I can only think that a soprano holding back the big vocal gesture is the only answer here.


But that, personal, point aside, this was a magnificent show which will linger long in the memory.


Bob Briggs

See also: timesonline

and,* for me the perfect incarnation of Mahler's Child singing of Heaven was Elisabeth Schumann in the Albert Hall in the late'40s; any records of when that might have been? [Editor]