This recording forms part of a series of reissues celebrating the glorious Decca recordings from the 1950s-1970s of the Wiener Oktett (Vienna Octet), made up of key principals from the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
This collection brings together three of the most enduring chamber music masterpieces ever written. Mendelssohn’s Octet remains an absolute teenage marvel, never mind what Mozart wrote at a similar or younger age, or what child prodigies have accomplished since. Schubert’s “Trout” is one of his most joyous works and his Octet was one of the Wiener Oktett’s signature pieces, admired not only by a legion of concertgoers, record collectors and critics, but also the aged Richard Strauss who heard the ensemble perform this work.
What makes this set even more attractive is that the recordings of each of these pieces are rare and much sought-after. The Mendelssohn was the first of the ensemble’s two recordings (1953, 1972). The Schubert “Trout” Quintet was more famously recorded in 1957 with Clifford Curzon, but this 1950 recording, with the Oktett’s regular pianist, Walter Panhofer, is perhaps even more sublime. The Octet’s recording dates from 1954. It was recorded again in 1958, but for many, this first reading, which has never appeared on CD before, is perhaps even more spontaneous.
Distinguished commentator Tully Potter’s notes on the music and the performers are witty and engaging, adding yet another dimension to the reissue of these recordings, much loved as they have (until now) been much missed.
Octet in E flat major, Op. 20
Piano Quintet in A major, D.667 ‘Trout’
Octet in F major, D.803
Walter Panhofer, piano
Recording Producers: Victor Olof (Schubert); unidentified (Mendelssohn)
Balance Engineers: Arthur Haddy (Schubert: Piano Quintet); Cyril Windebank (Schubert: Octet); unidentified (Mendelssohn)
Recording Locations: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, May 1950 (Schubert: Piano Quintet); Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, April 1954 (Schubert: Octet); Vienna, Austria, June 1953 (Mendelssohn)
‘The golden age of Viennese music-making flares gloriously into life again’ (Trout Quintet) Gramophone
‘The result is exquisite. Perfection of tone and phrasing … polish and subtlety and rare beauty of tone’ (Schubert Octet) Gramophone
‘a splendid recording … absolutely first-rate account … The performance cannot be too highly recommended’ (Mendelssohn Octet) Gramophone