Like a great deal of composers and musicians, contemporary appreciation of the music of Franz Schubert was limited in his life time, around the early 1800’s. However, posthumously it brought a great deal of admiration. Passing away at 32 years old, he produced a proliferation of works, over 600 secular, seven symphonies, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music.
This recording by Doric String Quartet is of two quartets, no’s. 12 and 15, and is released on the consistently excellent Chandos label. The first piece, ‘Quartettsatz’, is a single movement, the full work being unfinished, and is an outstanding piece. There is much speculation about why it was not completed, one of the reasons being that it was such a powerful first movement, he was unable to come up with an effective following movement. The ensemble really brings the piece to life, through the tremolo triplets, the calmness of the second theme is perfect and a piece to fall in love with. For this excellent composition, the mix of fire and calm really suits the top notch abilities of this quartet.
The next piece, the four movements of the full String Quartet in G Major, composed by Schubert during respite from a venereal disease, was aimed at a study towards a grand symphony. The Allegro is expertly dominated by the players, not one standing out, but all working in virtuosity harmony (I swear the slow melody and progression also features in Saint-Saëns in Symphony No. 3 Op. 78). The Andante delivers some excellent playing as highlighted in pitch perfect octave playing and metronomic precision. The Scherzo with its speedy triplet motif is technically excellent whilst interesting and fun. Listening to it a few times, my fingers ache thinking about the technical difficulties involved! Finally the Allegro Assai is full of dynamic playing – very serious and stately at times and delivering lots of interesting syncopation and beautiful harmonies. It revisits some of the rhythms and melodies and brings the quartet to a triumphant close with those last two chords.
The production and recording quality on the album is superb, a real triumph, and you can easily pick out the players throughout the dynamic range. Kudos also to the ensemble playing – perfectly balanced and demonstrative throughout, without a flicker of uncertainty around both execution and musical interpretation.
Before he died, the last piece Schubert reportedly wished to hear was Beethoven’s String Quartet No.14 in C Sharp Minor Op. 131 and when you hear the power of a string quartet as is delivered in this album, then you get a sense of why.
I'm a trumpet player and fan of all kinds of music but jazz and classical are my bae.
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