Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: String Quintet in C, D956
PERFORMER: Guarneri Quartet with Bernard Greenhouse (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 432 108-2 DDD
I reviewed two recordings (by the Takacs and Brandis Quartets) of Schubert’s last, and most heartbreakingly beautiful, chamber work in these columns last month; and, like them, this newcomer to a very competitive field is unlikely to displace such classic accounts as those by the Alban Berg Quartet with Heinrich Schiff, or the Amadeus Quartet with William Pleeth. That said, to hear the warmth and affection with which Bernard Greenhouse (the former cellist of the Beaux Arts Trio) and David Soyer handle the opening movement’s poignant two-cello theme is a treat indeed. The slow movement is impressive too, with its dramatic middle section convincingly played as an agitato.

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The main problem here is the finale, where the players take a . comparatively swift view of the opening minor-mode material before slowing down drastically for the arrival of the more genial — and profoundly Viennese — side of Schubert’s character. The continual change in tempo as the piece progresses is distinctly damaging to the music’s large-scale shape. The dark trio section of the preceding Scherzo movement is again very freely handled, and perhaps altogether too sombre. The recorded balance is also a shade too close for comfort. Misha Donat