Schubert: Octet, D803; Quartettsatz, D703

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Octet, D803; Quartettsatz, D703
PERFORMER: Edding Quartet; Northernlight


Schubert’s Octet is such an infectiously joyous piece that it’s impossible not to feel uplifted by it – especially when it’s played as well as it is here. This is a performance that conveys an unfailing sense of enjoyment, and at the same time it’s clear that a good deal of thought has gone into it.

Schubert’s first movement is one of his pieces in which the music of the slow introduction returns towards the end of the following Allegro. However, that return doesn’t necessitate a change of tempo: instead, Schubert simply rewrites the music of the beginning in notes of twice their previous value, implying that the Allegro moves at double the speed of the introduction. The Edding Quartet and Northernlight bring this off perfectly, and their tempos are judiciously chosen elsewhere, too, with an irresistibly buoyant scherzo, and an acceleration in tempo for the minor-mode variation of the fourth movement – making it into an agitato – is a nice touch. Less convincing, perhaps, is the slight increase of speed in the slow movement, at the point where the music first changes key, though that could have resulted from an edit between two takes in different tempos.

The C minor Quartet Movement (Quartettsatz) D703 of 1820 – the only portion of a projected work in that key Schubert completed – makes an attractive bonus. The Edding Quartet play it with convincing expressive freedom, though without quite achieving the dramatic intensity that a ‘live’ performance might have prompted. But by this time, we’ve had more than our money’s worth.


Misha Donat