A tribute to the art of ensemble playing
Everything about this recording suggests long acquaintance and a great deal of thought. The great G major Quartet has a dramatic, operatic intensity to it, a sense of powerful narrative and intense colour. In the process, as each section and subsection displays its distinct character, the metronome is dispensed with: the pace of the first movement in particular varies continually, which takes some getting used to, as forward-pressing urgency gives way to gentler, pregnant musings.
Vivid contrasts run throughout the work. The cello melody that opens the second movement has a plaintive, relaxed air, and the dramatic fire that follows is positively vicious, with first violin and viola spitting out their sforzando interjections. The scherzo is admirably crisp and dry, the trio correspondingly warm and lush. The finale has a grim joy. It is all impeccably played, both technically – for this is a work that can tax the best – and as an example of the art of ensemble playing.
The Quartettsatz, for all the sternness of its scurrying C minor semiquavers, receives a profoundly lyrical performance, as Schubert’s brow unfurrows and gives way to song. The recording is resonant and close enough to hear the players breathing in the rests.
Clip: Schubert Quartettsatz in C minor D703