"The youthful Camerata Freden, Festival Ensemble of the Freden International Music Festival, sets a new standard for how Schubert’s famous Octet works, and whether the traditional notion of Viennese charm is a prerequisite to its interpretive success.
The answer to the latter question is a definite no, as the eight musicians led by violinist Adrian Adlam (also Artistic Director of the Festival) show that the music need not fawn and curtsey as each of the famous themes make their appearances. Instead, the ensemble takes a wide-eyed approach keyed to the stream of instrumental beauty that Schubert has created. Eschewing familiar phrasing choices that seem to have chiseled in stone, according to the truth put down by renowned groups like the Vienna Octet, Adlam and his crew takes a more direct route and opens up whole new vistas. And while Adlam shows almost superhuman strength and virtuosity in his demanding role (you can’t realize how much physical work this Octet is for the first violinist until you have attended a live performance), the excellence of the music making extends to each player. If you want to single out any of them, it would have to French hornist Ron Schaaper, who lights up the sky with his virtuosity, and cellist Michel Dispa, whose playing of the great solo in the theme and variations movement sweeps the recorded field. Tacet’s sound by Andreas Speer and Roland Kistner is rich in timbral glory and clear as a bell, its excellent inner detail lacking only the last bit of definition (perhaps achieved by the Tacet Real Surround Sound on the DVD Audio version). Oliver Buslau’s liner notes chronicle the theory and facts of the music’s composition in beautifully if straightforward written prose.
[Added in March 2005: Correct about the DVD-A version: And in addition the listener gets to sit in with the eight players! I know other publications have made fun of Tacet′s "Real Surround Sound" - in which the individual players in a chamber group are spaced equally around you. I don′t agree that this is a misuse of the acoustic space that can now be captured with recordings. I find it to be involving, edifying and educational. Almost none of us could afford to hire an ensemble to perform in our homes but these multichannel recordings are the next best thing. It′s important to have an identical or very similar center channel speaker to the other four, because Tacet makes use of the center channel for one of the instruments in all of these discs. And it is also important to have equal level on all five or six channels. (I find I have to reset levels when I switch between my DVD-A player and separate SACD player - an advantage of universal disc players!) In the case of the Octet the center channel is the viola, flanked by the first violin on the left front speaker and the cello on the right front. Then along the left side is the bassoon, with the clarinet on the right side. Finally, the second violin is placed at the left rear surround speaker, the doublebass at the right surround, and the French horn in between them directly to the rear...Ed.]"
Laurence Vittes

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