The Strad issue
Blistering playing from a young Italian ensemble
Beethoven & Schubert
The DVD version of this two-in-one release has the quartet surrounded by columns and microphones, attended by a small Classical torso. It also has short interviews with the composer Salvatore Sciarrino and violinist Salvatore Accardo praising the group. Accardo approves of artists who stick to what the composer wrote, which, by and large, they do (although the opening of ‘Death and the Maiden’ has the slower tempo of custom and practice).
This is first-rate playing throughout, strong and uncompromising. Beethoven’s ‘Serioso’ F minor Quartet opens at a great pace, with severe, furious playing and many an attacca. The Allegretto is restless and disconcerting, played with the attention to Beethoven’s markings that Accardo commends. It is in all an emotionally disturbing performance, which the brilliant F major of the closing pages does not dispel.
The first movement of Schubert’s D minor Quartet has similar momentum and attack. The second movement, by contrast, is often delicate, the emotional darkness held in check, with beautiful melodic playing, against which Schubert’s torrid outbursts are all the more striking. The trio of the scherzo has refreshing elegance and warmth, and the finale sums up the quality of the whole CD with a blistering display of virtuoso quartet playing. The recorded sound is close and resonant.