Collectors who remember the superb recordings of Schubert's chamber music by Willi Boskovsky -- as violinist and leader of the Vienna Octet -- will be happy to see that the complete incidental music for "Rosamunde" has been added to his growing discography as a conductor. The orchestra is one of Europe's finest, the Dresden State Orchestra. The Leipzig Radio on Chorus is heard in the three choral numbers, and soprano Ileana Cotrubas sings the romance "Der Vollmond strahlt" (Seraphim S -- 60338).
This music is of course well suited to the gemutlich style Boskovsky has shown in his recordings of dance music by Mozart and the Strauss family, but he responds well to its sturdier qualities too, reminding us throughout the two sides of the exceptional feeling for Schubert in his performances of the Octet, the "Trout" Quintet and the violen sonatinas. The orchestra, the chorus and Cotrubas in her brief contribution are brilliantly in the spirit as well; and the sound is quite good.
This collection is a bit more complete than any other currently available disc of the "Rosamunde" music, in that Boskovsky includes both of the overtures associated with the work. Side 1 opens with the one that actually introduced the two performances of Helmina von Chezy's lamentable play in 1823, the overture Schubert used earlier for his opera "Alfonso and Estrella." Side 2 closes with the famous "Rosamunde" Overture, the piece originally composed for "Die Zauberharfe" and somehow attached to the "Rosamunde" music when it was all published.
To my ear, Karl Munchinger's "Rosamunde" record with the Vienna Philharmonic (London OS-26444, cassette OS5-26444) is more persuasive still, even with only the one ("Zauberharfe") overture and with a contralto (Rohangiz Yachmi) who treats the romance a little heavily. The "Alfonso and Estrella" Overture, of course, may be had in the recording of the opera itself, under Otmar Suitner (Angel SCLX-3878), but those who choose to pass that up, or simply wish to economize, will find the new Boskovsky record a delectable item by any standards, and I suspect more than a few true-blue Schubertians will want to have it in addition to the Munchinger and Suitner recordings.
True-blue Schubertians will also find a good deal more than economy to appeal to them in Gilbert Kalish's new Nonesuch record of the unfinished piano Sonata in C major, D. 840 and the "Drei Klavierstuecke," D. 946 (H-71386). The "Three Pieces," generally regarded as a third set of impromptus, are not given the heightened sense of drama that informs Alfred Brendel's performance (Philips 6500.928), but neither are they subjected to the excess of nervous tension that makes for some discomfort in his playing of the final piece.
Throughout these pieces, and the two movements of the Sonata -- the pianistic complement to Schubert's best-loved symphony -- Kalish's playing shows the same sort of integrity that has made his recordings of sonatas by Ives and Haydn, his song accompaniments and his chamber music performances so satisfying. They are utterly self-effacing yet strong and assertive on behalf of the music itself, which is brought to life by a well-judged balance between scholarly respect and musicianly affection. The recording itself is first-rate, the surfaces are remarkably quiet, and there is unusually informative annotation by Robert Winter.
The Schubert disc, one of the last produced for Nonesuch by Teresa Sterne, was apparently to have initiated a comprehensive survey of this composer's piano works by Kalish. One hopes this, and the Haydn sonata series that went as far as five releases, may be continued somehow, on this or another label. In the meantime, another of Sterne's last productions, a program of solo music played on the chinese lute called the pipa, by Lui Pui-yuen (Nonesuch H -- 72085), was released at the same time as the Schubert, and it is one of the finest things to come from the Explorer Series. The titles would mean nothing to people who don't know the material, but there is some remarkably moving music here: this could be a lovely discovery for a lot of jaded listeners (no pun intended), an intriguing introduction to a whole new listening experience.