WORKS: String Quartet in C, D32; String Quarteti n D, D74; String Quartet in E, D353
PERFORMER: Kodály Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557107
The Kodály Quartet’s survey of Schubert’s string quartets is nearing completion; and this fifth volume focuses on the works from his teenage years – with their continuing revelations. The Leipzig Quartet is really the only consistently serious competition in the field of these early works, and its recordings do take some beating. The Kodály lacks its warmth of timbre and obvious affection for these works. But its strength lies in drawing attention to the robust, edgy energy of the adolescent composer: the players emphasise the impatient spirit behind D74, written by the 16-year-old Schubert for his father’s name-day – the motivic tensions of its opening, the tremulous energies of its finale.
The Kodály, with its fine, astringent first violin, captures nicely the quirky character of the menuetto and trio of D353, and the mischief of its rondo which literally runs circles round them. But the players lack some stability and poise in the pacing of Schubert’s slow movements, particularly in the D major work. And their hearts could open wider to celebrate the wonderfully expansive, proliferating melody of the E major Quartet, with its free modulation of key and imagination: it was, after all, written in 1816, Schubert’s year of 100 songs. Hilary Finch