Schubert: String Quartet in A minor, D804 (Rosamunde); String Quartet in D minor, D810 (Death and the Maiden); String Quartet in G, D887; Quartettsatz in C minor, D703; String Quintet in C, D956

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: String Quartet in A minor, D804 (Rosamunde); String Quartet in D minor, D810 (Death and the Maiden); String Quartet in G, D887; Quartettsatz in C minor, D703; String Quintet in C, D956
PERFORMER: Brandis Quartet; Wen-Sinn Yang (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 1770
Schubert’s bicentennial is stimulating a valuable reassessment of his music. For example, the Festetics here uncover the 19-year-old composer’s striking originality in the C major Quartet, D46. They play the ominously dissonant introduction and main theme’s repeated notes with keen urgency, brightening effectively for the slow movement’s warm melodiousness. Alert dynamics animate the Menuetto and adroit mood changes evince the finale’s engaging blend of rustic charm and elegance.

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Taut rhythmic control and period-instrument sound give the Festetics’s account of the Rosamunde Quartet’s opening Allegro a dark atmosphere that is extremely compelling, and their leisurely tempo for the slow movement heightens the music’s piquancy. However, the Brandis Quartet, with slightly faster speeds in the second and third movements, generate increased dramatic energy in the volcanic outburst at the centre of the Andante and stronger contrasts in the Menuetto. Both ensembles capture the finale’s carefree spirit: the Brandis with exquisite command and polish; the Festetics – at a quicker pace – with stylish flamboyance.

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The Brandis Quartet’s sensitivity to the expressive tension between lyricism and abstract musical material vividly highlights Schubert’s dual nature. They underline the restless expressive power of the Quartettsatz and their thoughtful approach to the rhythmic and harmonic scheme of the Death and the Maiden Quartet provides a telling reflection of Schubert’s tortured psychological condition at the time of its composition. Vibrant playing communicates the G major Quartet’s astonishing emotional range. Finally, the Brandis’s performance of the String Quintet is distinguished by beautiful textural balance, illuminating Schubert’s structurally inventive instrumentation. Its stirring intensity in the Adagio and winning opposition of light and dark shades in the scherzo affirm the composer’s triumph in the last movement with particular force.