Schubert/Haydn/Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Schubert/Haydn/Ravel
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Quartettsatz in C minor, D703; String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76/2 (Fifths); String Quartet in F
PERFORMER: Skampa Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3156-2
In his late chamber works, Schubert was – in his own words – seeking ‘to pave [the] way to a grand symphony’. As the Takács (right) illustrates here with brilliance, Schubert’s symphonic scope is triumphantly apparent in the G major String Quartet. Its masterly reconciliation of the first movement’s abstract musical gestures (tremolos and fragmented motivic material) with the cello’s prominent lyrical role conveys a satisfying feeling of organic coherence. It balances texture and theme beautifully in the Andante and Scherzo, reaching an exciting climax in the infectious hysteria of the finale’s tarantella. The delicious rendering of the ‘Notturno’, with Andreas Haefliger on piano, is an added bonus.

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Immerseel, Beths and Bylsma offer period-instrument versions of Schubert’s B flat and E flat Piano Trios. However, theirs is not the delicate, fine-grained sound of, say, the Castle Trio (Virgin). Immerseel plays a 19th-century fortepiano by Tröndlin of Leipzig, whose full, rounded tone inspires all three musicians to project these works with striking vigour and energy. I was disturbed by a lumpy pulse in the first movement of the B flat Trio, but otherwise the fresh vitality of the music-making on this disc gives an effective portrayal of Schubert’s expressive extremes. Bylsma phrases the yearning melodies in the slow movements of both trios affectionately, while the ensemble fragrantly evokes dance in the Scherzos and stirs intense passions in the music’s more violent outbursts.

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A fluent, highly polished account of Schubert’s C minor ‘Quartettsatz’ shows the Skampa to be one of the brightest among today’s young chamber groups. Its exceptional interpretative range and musical intelligence are confirmed by splendid performances of quartets by Haydn (the Fifths) and Ravel.