The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Schubert: String Quartets in E flat major D87 & G major D887
Monday, 01 February 2010
Hugo Wolf Quartet
VMS Musical Treasures VMS 208
The Hugo Wolf Quartet’s fine-toned, well-blended accounts demonstrate a striking empathy for the tensions that lie within Schubert’s expansive music and amply explore the emotional colours of its unexpected twists of melody and harmony. These players perform the monumental G major Quartet with a passion and dramatic intensity that makes light of the outer movements’ repetitiveness and much of their stark contrasts of mode and character. The extremes of the quasi-rondo Andante focus on Florian Berner’s elegiac cello solo and the wild G minor section, with its harmonic surprises, while the nimble Mendelssohnian scherzo is neatly dispatched. Lyricism and rhythmic precision characterise these performers’ interpretation of the opening movement of Schubert’s precocious E flat major Quartet. They also convey the humour of the impetuous scherzo, give a folk-like character to its minor-mode trio, and bring out the Adagio’s melodic charm. Their adept interaction in the exhilarating finale, particularly in its development section, provides further testament to their undoubted pedigree. Expertly recorded at Vienna’s Hofburgkapelle, the disc comes with a quirky alternative to conventional booklet notes, described as ‘spontaneous impressions, sketched while listening’. It may not represent these performers’ last word on D887 – some honing remains to be done – but it certainly confirms their place among the world’s most promising ensembles.
From the February 2010 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.