Richter and the members of the Borodin quartet, joined by veteran Georg Hörtnagel, recorded Franz Schubert’s "Trout" live in 1980, and EMI has now reissued it on their Redline budget series with Richter's classic "Wanderer Fantasie" from 1963.
It is a fine "Trout", and a very "Richterian" interpretation indeed. Tempos in some movements are unusually slow, though only the Scherzo displays a touch of the deliberate massiveness that characterized Richter's interpretations from the 80s on. In the opening "Allegro" Richter and partners don't particularly mark the accents the way Gilels and Amadeus quartet members do (now on DG "The Originals"), but their playing is crisp and zestful, with a fine sense of balance between piano and strings, and these elicit a deep lyricism and beautiful tone. Likewise, the Andante, taken at a very moderate tempo (it is actually the slowest of the more than twenty I've heard on disc), has an affecting simplicity, some passages of bewitching dreaminess underpinned by beautiful pianissimos, and the deeply-felt viola and cello cantilena at 1:43 has a wistful, quasi-tchaikovskyan feel to it. In the Scherzo Richter and the Borodins go for good-humored bonhomie rather than hectic drive a la Gilels and Amadeus, and their staccato playing has a sprightly bounce; they commendably maintain the same tempo for the trio, giving it a feeling a merry playfulness. The famous "Trout" theme doesn't have the liveliness and carefree character that Curzon and the members of the Vienna Octet imparted to it back in 1957, but the ensuing variations are characterized with all the required charm (var. 1 & 2), insouciant merriment (var. 3), Beethovenian power (var. 4); transitions from one variation to the other are very natural and, rather than maintaining a unity of tempo (Schubert indicates no tempo change except in the coda), Richter and partners give each variation its own tempo, but without exaggerated variance, and the movement's coda is genial and easy-going. The finale is forward-moving and spirited, with a great rhythmic snap.
This has all the hallmarks of a classic.—Discophage