Last year I was pleased to have the opportunity of recording a CD of the Schubert Octet in live performance rather than in a studio setting. I was keen to do this because I have always felt that music takes on another dimension when it is played to other people; an intangible link develops between performers and audience which can be hard to replicate in a recording studio and which is nonetheless crucial. The kind of telepathy I am talking about between the musician and the public helps to shape the performance, to drive its intensity and its tempo as the performer responds to the feeling in the hall. If that link is missing then the music can fall rather flat. You can imagine the microphone is your audience of course but it is much easier if you actually have the listeners there.
A studio setting is great for short pieces where you can have the luxury of a number of takes to get exactly the right mood/tempo/vibe for each song but the Schubert Octet is a magnificent structure lasting nearly an hour and it is particularly suited to a live treatment because with listeners present you are doubly aware of pacing the music so it doesn’t flag, of keeping the music travelling and the lines of the phrases going. You are also intent on expressing for the audience the myriad inflexions, colours and emotions in this great work of genius in which there appears a new wonderful melody around every corner.
I shall never forget the roar of applause at the end of the concert as listeners and performers alike finally relax after concentrating on Schubert’s sublime music and feel a desire to express gratitude that a man could write anything quite so beautiful. I am glad that the producers decided to keep the applause on the CD because that is an important part of the performance. After all if no one is listening and responding to the music, there isn’t much point in playing it.