Schubert: String Quartet in B flat, D68; String Quartet in D, D74; Minuet in D, D86; Minuets & German Dances, D89

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Upbeat
WORKS: String Quartet in B flat, D68; String Quartet in D, D74; Minuet in D, D86; Minuets & German Dances, D89
PERFORMER: Coull Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: URCD 162
Now offered as a mid-priced double-disc package, these Eighties ASV Schubert performances from the Lindsays should interest cash-conscious collectors getting to know this music. Anyone prepared to spend more, however, on the Brandis Quartet’s three-CD Nimbus set (encompassing the Lindsay’s programme, and Schubert’s Rosamunde and G major Quartets) will enjoy vastly superior ensemble-playing and sonics.

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The Coull Quartet impresses on disc, matching technical refinement with judicious musicality in its performances, but receives a fraction of the media attention heaped on the Lindsay for its endeavours. Its survey of Haydn’s Op. 33 quartets for CRD was deservedly praised, and its ongoing traversal of Schubert’s complete quartets, of which Vols 5 and 6 are considered here, augurs favourably at this stage.

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Schubert’s G minor Quartet, D173, reveals the influence of Mozart’s penultimate symphony in this key; the Coull plays with compelling gravitas and pleasing restraint, though I prefer the more rhetorical Brandis account (on Orfeo in this work). In D887 there’s less need of patrician gesture, and the Coull scores convincingly with its insightful and elegant reading, but in the last analysis, it hardly displaces the long-established Quartetto Italiano, Berg and Brandis versions. The slimmer D68 and D74 quartets feature on Vol. 6; again, the performances are committed and adroit. Finally, though none of the foregoing eclipses the fearsome impetuosity of the Artis Quartet’s Death and the Maiden for Sony, it’s the Brandis Quartet which still affords the best overview of these Schubertian masterworks. Michael Jameson