The Miró Quartet performs Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata and String Quintet in C

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Arpeggione Sonata; String Quintet in C
PERFORMER: Matt Haimovitz (cello), Itamar Golan (piano); Miró Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 549 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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These two works were recorded in 2001 and 2003, leaving me wondering why they took so long to be issued. These accounts may not be perfect, but I can’t imagine that the performers had any deep dissatisfaction with them, and Pentatone’s recording is startlingly immediate. In his charming notes Matt Haimowitz describes encountering a genuine arpeggione, a brief-lived instrument which deserved its mortality. Haimowitz’s cello playing couldn’t be improved on, and this lovely but limited work gets an account which now replaces my previous favourite, by Rostropovich and Britten.

The account of the String Quintet is disqualified for me by the omission of the first movement repeat. The Miró Quartet together with Haimowitz give, in any case, a somewhat detached reading of the first movement, in marked contrast to the hyper-intensity they bring to the rest of the work, especially to the manic middle section of the slow movement and the desolation of the trio of the third movement, all the more striking thanks to the abandon with which they play the scherzo. The last movement, which can seem inappropriately jaunty, here takes on a grim determination which in this account seems to be heading for the abyss. What can I say? Three great movements, one hardly adequate – dare I suggest playing the first movement from another recording?

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Michael Tanner