The Strad Issue: March 2015
Description: A brilliant young quartet in contrasting works from three centuries
Musicians: Schumann Quartet
Composer: Mozart, Ives, Verdi

This is the Schumann Quartet’s eagerly awaited follow-up to its outstanding 2013 debut disc of Beethoven, Bartók and Brahms. Lithe, tonally transparent, sparklingly articulated, finely vibratoed, subtly blended and phrased, the Schumann sound world is ideal for the first of Mozart’s three ‘Prussian’ Quartets, enhanced by tangible, gently cushioned engineering. Their approach to the timing and inflecting of Mozart’s buoyant work is remarkable from so youthful an ensemble, especially in the finale, whose tricky final pages benefit from immaculate emotional pacing.

The beguiling eloquence of the Schumanns’ Mozart is matched by an impassioned reading of Charles Ives’s Second Quartet, which pulls no punches when it comes to its constant railing against the tradition exemplified by Mozart’s bejewelled classicism. Ives emphasised that when performing this bracingly inventive score the players should shake hands after throwing a few metaphorical punches and ‘have some fun’, and that is precisely what comes across in the startling adrenalin rush of the ‘Arguments’ second movement. Following this tour de force of visionary altercation, the Schumanns soothe our lacerated tonal senses with a high-octane account of the Verdi Quartet that blows clean away the cosily held notion of it being a pallid reflection of his operatic genius. Highly recommended.