Schubert String Quartets

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COMPOSERS: Franz Schubert
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert String Quartets
WORKS: String Quartet in A minor ‘Rosamunde’; String Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’
PERFORMER: Doric String Quartet


This disc contains Schubert’s two best-loved string quartets. The first is often called ‘Rosamunde’ because the slow movement contains the melody from an entr’acte Schubert wrote for Helmina von Chézy’s play. The second is named ‘Death and the Maiden’ because Schubert uses Death’s melody in the eponymous song as the basis for ever-wilder variations in its slow movement. Actually, in the performances on this disc, neither is particularly slow; admittedly they are marked ‘andante’ but I’d soon be out of breath if I walked at this tempo. One could say that the A minor Quartet is to the great G major Quartet what Schubert’s first song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin, is to the second, Winterreise. In each case, there seems to be hope in the first of the works, though it is dashed; in the second there is none. The D minor Quartet occupies an intermediate position in which Schubert seems to be hoping that if he goes on long enough in the last movement, something good might turn up. It doesn’t, and the work comes to an impressively sticky end. The Doric Quartet play with passion, but there is relaxation, even wit, in both these works, and the Doric seem to be eager to stress the prevailing darkness at the expense of warmth and lyricism, which is so notable in the A minor Quartet. They play with notably little vibrato, so the impression of coolness is increased.


Michael Tanner