Schubert: String Quartet in D minor, D810 (Death and the Maiden); String Quartet in E flat, D87

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Calliope
WORKS: String Quartet in D minor, D810 (Death and the Maiden); String Quartet in E flat, D87
PERFORMER: Talich Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CAL 9234 DDD
Predictably, many performances of Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet find the heart of the work in the slow movement variations. The sentiment of the song ‘Death and the Maiden’ (D531), whose theme provides the basis for the variations, affects the whole fabric of the Quartet’s remarkable formal and expressive content.

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The Talich provides a potent analogy for the dialogue between the two protagonists of Schubert’s song setting. A generously resonant recording and the Talich’s boldly projected instrumental solos in the variations establish a concerto-like opposition of forces, while broad phrasing and distinctively contrasted textures, in general, contribute to a compelling forward momentum overall. By contrast, the Maggini, whose live Wigmore Hall recording sounds closer and more intimate, achieves genuine Schubertian feeling through sensitively controlled, clear textures and greater emphasis on the subtle play of different tonal colours, that more fully integrates soloist and ensemble in the variations.

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Both issues include examples of Schubert’s youthful string quartet output as couplings. The Talich gives an excellent account of the delightfully precocious E flat Quartet, D87 (1813), while the Maggini offers immensely enjoyable performances of a rarity, the Five Minuets, D89, and the C minor Quartettsatz, D103. Nicholas Rast