WORKS: String Quintet in C, D956; Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
PERFORMER: Hagen Quartet, Heinrich Schiff (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 439 774-2 DDD
Schubert’s String Quintet infuses personal resignation into an hour-long meditation upon vulnerability and leave-taking. Such was his unspoken remit for the work, though one would scarcely guess as much from the Hagen’s brusque, heartlessly economical performance. Their playing is competent enough; that much, at least, may be taken for granted, though the presence of Heinrich Schiff as second cellist vouchsafes few glimpses at the soul of the work on this occasion. Its axis point, the volcanic F minor section of the Adagio, becomes episodic, never inevitable; both the world-weary threnody enclosing it, and sadly even the great second subject of the opening movement, sound inexplicably casual. Not surprisingly, the Hagens dispatch the entire work in just over 50 minutes, though they make unexpected amends in their heroically cogent encounter with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Schiff, incidentally, also plays on the finest modern version of D956, with the Alban Berg Quartet on EMI, a monumental account demanding inclusion in every collection, even without a filler.
The ‘Trout’ Quintet receives the spirited and refreshingly genial attentions of pianist Ronan O’Hora and the RPO ensemble. O’Hora’s spontaneous delight at each joyous incident, allied to delectable string playing, results in a creditable performance. The ‘Rosamunde’ is less successful perhaps, if only because its character is more elusive and intimate; that said, the RPO principals acquit themselves honourably, and are well recorded. Michael Jameson