Leah Hollingsworth hears the performance of Schubert, Dvořák and Shostakovich at the Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York on 7 February 2024 


Finesse aplenty from the Apollon Musagète Quartet. Photo: Jennifer Taylor

The Apollon Musagète Quartet demonstrated power in its delicate, understated approach at Carnegie Hall, performing Schubert’s Quartettsatz with impeccable ensemble and quiet strength. The flautando opening made it almost difficult to hear the melody, but eventually the sweet sound of the first violin simply floated above the accompanying triplets.

Dvořák’s E flat major Quartet (no.10) followed, again featuring a stunningly beautiful blend of sound from the lower three voices with the first violin prominently displayed on top. While I would have preferred a stronger bass and more conspicuous inner lines, the group’s overall poise and sophistication made for a compelling performance. The finale was performed with great energy and clarity – fast string crossings always clean and clear.

Schubert’s E flat major String Quartet D87 followed the interval in much the same manner: expressive playing, thoughtful shaping and impressive exploration of the softer dynamics throughout. The minor-key Trio had an otherworldly beauty and the final Allegro was played with thoughtful direction.

Shostakovich’s powerful String Quartet no.8 closed the evening and brought with it a wonderful contrast to the restraint of the first three works. The depth of intensity was perfect for the dark agony of the opening Largo and the Allegro was fiery without sacrificing sound quality. It was gratifying to hear the group really dig in and play with a deeper sound, and a grittiness that was powerful but never ugly. The finale was as heartbreaking as it should be.