Schubert String Quartets

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COMPOSERS: Franz Schubert
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert String Quartets
WORKS: String Quartet No. 13 in A minor (Rosamunde); No. 14 in D minor (Death and the maiden); No. 15 in G major, D887
PERFORMER: Artemis Quartet


On these two discs the Artemis Quartet play Schubert’s three great mature quartets. The players are midway through a cycle of the Beethoven late Quartets and, as the notes point out, the Schubert quartets – in their extreme difference from Beethoven – show how individual a composer he was. In the G major Quartet from 1826, for instance, there are passages of tremolando, scarcely related thematically to the main substance of the first or second movements.

The Artemis seem bent on intense drama, so in the A minor Quartet, written two years before the other two, what should be lyrical is sometimes recruited as part of the drama. The players thrive in movements such as the Rosamunde’s so-called minuet, though one would never have guessed that that is what it was: it growls, becomes briefly graceful, then growls again. The Artemis enjoy growling, clashing, shivering, and the relentless energy of the last movements. Theirs is an impressive, vividly recorded approach.

There is space on the second CD for the Quartet Movement in C minor, a remarkable piece, on a level with these three masterworks. A pity it wasn’t used.


Michael Tanner