Andreas Staier established himself in the 1990s as a perceptive Schubertian with revelatory recordings on period pianos of the late sonatas and Lieder performances with Christoph Prégardien. His hyper-sensitive touch coaxes a myriad of colour and sonority out of the fortepiano so my expectations were high for this set of Piano Trios.
Using a lovely copy of a 1827 Conrad Graf, Staier’s colouristic playing gives us plummy bass notes and pinging treble, creating fascinating tints, his companions adding delicate brushwork. Moments such as the second statement of the main theme of D898 with pizzicato strings supporting Staier’s impeccable articulation are breathtakingly beautiful and many such moments abound; the funeral march of D929 is gaunt and sepulchral.
However his companions seem to be channelling an earlier era; both are superbly expressive exponents of Baroque string playing but their approach here seems at odds with Staier. Their lithe dynamic thrust in fast movements make for an exciting ride but they refuse to indulge us with any hint of Romantic expression, their blank phrasing with barely any vibrato and minimal tonal variation works against Schubert’s long, singing lines and large-scale structures so that periods of reflection drag despite flowing tempi. A frustrating release worth hearing for Staier’s insights and but it doesn’t tell the whole story.