Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: String Quintet in C, D956
PERFORMER: Orpheus Quartet, Pieter Wispelwey (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 6794 DDD
One of the most alluring features of Schubert’s C major Quintet, written only a few months before the composer’s death, is its powerfully moving opposition of radiant optimism and sinister foreboding. In their new recording of the Quintet, Wispelwey and the Orpheus offer a fluid, natural response to these emotional shifts that is compelling for its sophistication and finesse. Moreover, the Orpheus’s fine-grained sound and subtle presentation of Schubert’s varied instrumental groupings reveal a profound grasp of the work’s architecture.

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In the first movement, for example, the satisfying resonance of the second subject’s broad, expressive lines contrasts strikingly with rather clipped staccato that eloquently conveys the music’s increased agitation in the development. Fresh musical insights abound in the second movement, where the first violin and second cello become increasingly distinct from the texture, reach an emotional climax in the middle section through the cello’s inherent opposition to the remainder of the group, and resolve in the final section, where the cello rumbles like distant thunder against the violin’s exquisitely balanced ornamentation. Strong, virile playing in the Scherzo provides an arresting contrast to the hauntingly bare octaves at the beginning of the Trio, and gives the Orpheus’s frank approach to the charmingly Viennese character of the finale a telling irony. Nicholas Rast