ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Complete String Quartets, Vol. 7: No. 5 in B flat, D68; Quartettsatz in C minor, D103; Five Minuets and Six Trios, D89; Overture in C minor, D8 (ed. Hess); String Trio in B flat, D471
PERFORMER: Kodály Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557126
Where Schubert’s music for string quartet is concerned, ‘complete’ is a relative term. In this last disc in their distinguished series, the Kodály Quartet begin with a Quartet Movement in C minor, composed in 1814 when he was 17 and began to write his first great songs; on no account, though, should this movement be confused with the piece of the same name composed in 1820, the latter being his first fully mature piece of string quartet writing, and a masterpiece, which the work on this disc has no pretensions to being. Even this movement, all that survives of a four-movement work, was completed by a scholar.
The Kodály move on to a Quartet in B flat major, from the same year. This quartet is again incomplete, with only the two outer movements in a performable state. It is interesting in that, unlike anything in the quartets of Haydn, Mozart or even Beethoven up to that time, the writing is often very strenuous, giving the impression that Schubert was thinking in orchestral terms, with many industrious tremolandos to create more excitement. The thematic material is undistinguished, and development is largely by restatement at a different pitch. Then comes a charming String Trio in B flat major, again one movement, more lyrical but still unmemorable. That is followed by five Minuets and six Trios, ideal music as the background for a dinner party. And finally – also not really belonging in this series – a so-called Overture in C minor for string quintet, perhaps the most effective music on this ‘mop-up’ disc. The performances are as clean and straightforward as we have come to expect. Michael Tanner