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Wobble and the Maiden
on 30 December 2016
I’ve been puritanically monogamous towards the Grumiaux / Haebler performance of the Trout from August 1966 ever since it came into my life in the mid-Eighties. This week’s advent of the Gilels / Amadeus Quartet from 1975 is the first time I’ve ever listened to a bar from another version. It’s freaked me out. The newcomer is much better recorded than my sweetheart. As others have noted, Gilels / AQ is less fun on the whole than other versions – it’s not wrong to describe it as being somewhat symphonic in pith; this, I can appreciate and do. Whereas it’s such a joy to hear Gilels in any repertoire, I wouldn’t necessarily say the same of Norbert Brainin, first violinist of the Amadeus Quartet. His wobble is an acquired taste. His first ‘fingernail on a blackboard’ experience comes at 2’42” - 2’54” in the first movement of D 667 and it does not stop there.
Brainin is in much better form in the 1958 recording of Death and the Maiden even if I cannot hear anything special about the performance per se. The early stereo recording is somewhat thin and the famous slow movement lacks a climatic moment, such as one finds with the Julliard Quartet.
To my way of thinking, Arthur Grumiaux v Norbert Brainin is a non-contest, as much as I enjoyed this affair. Four stars for this D 667, one less for the Quartet in D Minor.