Brahms/Schumann: String Quartet in B flat, Op. 67; String Quartet in A minor, Op. 41/1

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COMPOSERS: Brahms/Schumann
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: String Quartet in B flat, Op. 67; String Quartet in A minor, Op. 41/1
PERFORMER: Vogler Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61438 2 DDD
The Vogler Quartet continues to clothe itself in glory, and on this evidence it’s not difficult to see why. The quartet has a natural affinity with the works here, and its technical accomplishments might well be the envy of rival groups already in their dotage.

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Schumann’s detailed study of the great Classical quartets during 1842 found utterance in his own Op. 41 set. These are refined, highly individual, yet strangely elusive works. Even the first of the group, in A minor, has its share of problems, notably in the first movement, with its unusual key relationships and abrupt changes of mood. What follows is a Scherzo recalling Mendelssohn, a serene Adagio set within recitative-like episodes, and an unusually virtuosic finale. The Vogler Quartet turns in a committed, accurate and tight-reined account of a work which, in the wrong hands, can easily fall foul of its own particular idiosyncrasies.

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The Voglers are on familiar ground in Brahms’s last and certainly greatest quartet, his Op. 67. Their performance is a hugely impressive affair, always attuned to the focus and impetus of Brahms’s long-breathed paragraphs. The variation-form finale, especially, has majestic élan, completing a typically involving release from these artists. Michael Jameson