Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956; String Quartet in E flat, D87

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Profil Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: String Quintet in C, D956; String Quartet in E flat, D87
PERFORMER: Vogler Quartet;
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: PH 05051
Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, written in the last few weeks of his life, is among his greatest masterpieces, and one of the handful of supreme chamber works for strings by anyone at all. It has received some wonderful recordings, and if this isn’t quite among them, it is still a noble effort. The sound is extremely mellow, though, and that reduces the impact of some of the most devastating passages in the first two movements, as well as the trumpet-like effects of the scherzo. Only in the frenetic final bars of the whole vast work does the sound achieve adequate immediacy.

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About the performance itself there is a certain subdued, chugging, almost languid quality, as if the emotional demands that the work makes had left the players drained. That approach – if that’s what it is – works better in the slow movement than in the first one; but then in the slow movement’s distraught and desperate middle section I missed any wildness. The more easy-going mood of the last two movements seems to suit the Vogler Quartet with their added cellist better. Evidently the audience was highly impressed, I didn’t even realise there was one until they applauded at the end. The little Quartet in E flat that follows is given an affectionate reading, wisely omitting repeats. Of the several superior versions in the catalogue, I would go for the Lindsays, who combine their characteristic intensity with geniality, the secret of Schubert. Michael Tanner