Given how much he left uncompleted, it is surely perfectly legitimate to ask, is there no end of Schubert? Apparently not: having previously tackled all of Schubert’s legitimate pieces, finito and non-finito, for two piano pianos and piano duet for Olympia, Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow are by no means resting on their laurels. Here, already, is Volume 2 of some less legitimate Schubertian offspring, and I am sure there are more to come: no end of it, in fact. I missed Volume 1 in this series (reviewed in October 2004), an omission which, having heard the volume under review, I look forward to rectifying, not least because it apparently contains a four-hand arrangement (or better, re-creation) of the Trout Quintet which lends a new complexion to that glorious work. The question of legitimacy arises because we are dealing, here, there and everywhere, not with music from Schubert’s own quill but with arrangements: in the case of the Trout by Joseph Czerny, and in the present case by a less familiar member of his circle, Joseph von Gahy (1793-1864). The disc is even billed as “The Gahy Friendship”, though the arrangements appear to date form after Schubert’s untimely death.
It is all very well saying that Schubert might have approved of the drafting or performance of such arrangements. The objection must always be that we will never know, though it is certainly the case that Schubert and Gahy played together, four-handed. Having said which, one can then sit back and enjoy what is on offer: four works, mostly unearthed from autograph manuscripts in the Vienna City Library. According to Goldstone, they are strictly faithful to the letter of the originals, far more so than Czerny’s Trout.
The B flat Trio is, of course, a sublime late masterpiece, and one of the things that make it so is Schubert’s manipulation of his restricted textures, a dimension that inevitably immediately disappears here. Even so the stature of the Trio remains intact, while the separate and beautiful Notturno for the same combination also survives its translation and remains sublimely mellifluous. Given the disappearance of the arpeggione (a cello-guitar hybrid) as an instrument in daily use, the sonata which Schubert wrote for it is usually heard as an arrangement anyway, mostly on the cello; here the transfer to the piano medium feels more of a deprivation. By contrast, the last piece on the disc is actually an original after all: the D major Rondo, D. 608 was written by Schubert as a 20-year-old and was even possibly intended for himself and Gahy to perform together. (The spurious subtitle is Diabelli’s, whose edition engineers some non-Schubertian hand-crossing for the same sentimental effect.)
I would hate to think of any reader encountering this release without a prior knowledge of Schubert’s originals, the Trio in particular. Otherwise: beautiful playing, sympathetic recording, illuminating presentation, including comments form the inside, so to speak, by Goldstone himself. Roll on Volume 3.