It’s good to have a reading of Schubert’s Octet which explores it via the pungency of period instruments. The very opening chord is lent a particular dark hue (which isn’t just a matter of pitch) and the subsequent dialogue between wind and strings has a greater intimacy than in the Nash’s fine version. The arrival of the Allegro after the first movement’s slow introduction has a particular agility in this new reading, which has less to do with speed than the leanness of timbre. In the Adagio they take a more flowing tempo than the Nash, to great effect, Northernlight’s clarinettist Nicola Boud giving the Gaudier’s Richard Hosford a run for his money in sheer poetry. The darting Scherzo is another delight, all three wind instruments giving it a truly rustic edge, while in the finale the group contrasts drama and fizzing ebullience with a real twinkle in the eye, the chattering interplay between the instruments full of personality. And, once again, the pacing is spot on.
Harriet Smith