The Voce Quartet has a better reason than most to choose Schubert for its debut recording, since as well as coming second in the recent London International Quartet Competition it also walked away with three prizes at the Graz Schubert competition. Founded in 2004, the French ensemble, protégés of the Ysaÿe Quartet, captures Schubert’s blend of drama, ecstasy and melancholy most effectively. The resonant acoustic of Vivoin Priory lends a rather architectural grandeur to the sound, more suited to ‘Death and the Maiden’ than to the B flat major Quartet. The early work is beautifully played, though, with a real sense of flow between the instruments, impressive unison passages and a delightfully exuberant Scherzo. In the Quartettsatz, the great rushing tremolando crescendos sound truly terrifying, while the falling sequence slides effortlessly downwards.
‘Death and the Maiden’, an obvious choice for a quartet with such a feeling for Schubertian drama, does not disappoint. The first movement’s opening statement rings out, with the answering query as tense as I’ve heard it. There’s a sense of spaciousness, but at the same time attention to every nuance of detail. First violinist Sarah Dayan plays the filigree high tessitura figurations with easy grace, and all guns blaze in the struggle with death at the end of the second movement. Definitely a quartet to watch.