I found these performances of Schubert’s two Piano Trios sublime. I’ve long admired Schiff’s Schubert Sonatas, especially his intimate affectionate phrasing – which is, admittedly, sometimes a little too affectionate. The performances are wonderfully persuasive, with steady tempos which never drag and impressive chemistry (he and the violinist are married). I’d never sampled Miklós Perényi’s playing before, but on the strength of these performances, I thinks he’s been seriously underestimated. The trio play off each other and don’t “break out” jarringly with their solos and remain, in character, as it were, to preserve the existing mood and the architecture of the whole.
What I also loved was the balance between exuberance and reflection. I sometimes think this calibration is even more important in Schubert than in Mozart. The B-major trio is obviously the sunnier of the two but it’s the later, E flat D 929, one of Schubert’s last chamber works, composed under the shadow of death, which moved me indescribably. Despite the key signature, which in Beethoven heralds heroic deeds etc, here is Schubert at his most declamatory, but also at his most ruminative.
Some commentators discern a decline in quality of the last two movements but you’d never know it in this performance: the final movement, with the exposition repeat and other previously lost material restored, lasts 20 minutes, making it one of the longest movements in Schubert’s oeuvre – and it doesn’t seem a moment too long. Heavenly length indeed! The setting is a modest domestic room and there are no wide shots, only medium and intense close-ups with no attention-seeking camera angles, dissolves etc.