Schubert: String Quartets, D87, D112 & D173

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: String Quartets, D87, D112 & D173
PERFORMER: Sorrel Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9700
Schubert developed much of his feeling for texture and control of form through his early writing for string quartet. The domestic ensemble in which Franz played the viola (with his brothers Ignaz and Ferdinand on violin and his father on cello) offered invaluable opportunities for performance. With this latest release, the Sorrel gives sensitive accounts of three quartets that show both Schubert’s comprehensive assimilation of the styles of his predecessors and the rapid development of his own musical personality.

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The players’ natural fluency highlights D87’s classical formal balance (first movement) and Beethovenian impudence (scherzo), and they generate satisfying warmth in the lyrical vein of the last two movements. In D173, the guiding influences of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven seem to inhibit the young Schubert’s individuality. Nevertheless, the Sorrel’s vigorous approach persuasively projects this work’s fine craftsmanship, its alert dynamics and firm ensemble tracing an absorbing line from the dramatic opening Allegro to the vivacious finale.

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Schubert composed his B flat Quartet, D112, in just eight days; the increased flow of ideas signalled the first maturity of the composer’s individual voice. The Lindsay’s recording of this piece underlines its unmistakable Schubertian fingerprints, with dark tonal shades in the G minor Andante anticipating later masterpieces and charming delicacy in the minuet engagingly communicating the more sociable side of the composer’s character. The Sorrel plays this music with impressive technical polish, but it lacks the sweetness of tone (Andante), Biedermeier charm (minuet) and rhythmic energy (finale) of their rivals. Nicholas Rast