Two Everests of the quartet repertoire are approached with keen focus

Sacconi Quartet: Beethoven, Schubert

The Strad Issue: January 2024

Description: Two Everests of the quartet repertoire are approached with keen focus

Musicians: Sacconi Quartet

Works: Beethoven: String Quartet op.131. Schubert: String Quartet D810 ‘Death and the Maiden’

Catalogue number: ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100265

The Sacconi Quartet’s 21st-birthday present to itself is this recording. Two works from the cusp of the Classical and Romantic eras, two penultimate quartet statements – but, more importantly, two works that have accompanied the ensemble throughout its career. Accordingly, these are lived-in interpretations, observant of details yet giving the long view of these substantial quartets. Neither journey is embarked upon without full knowledge of the destination, and the Sacconi players are knowledgeable guides.

Both pieces are journeys involving the soul as musical argument, and the Sacconi vividly depicts the two characters behind them. Schubert’s troubled world comes instantly to life in the stunned opening motif of ‘Death and the Maiden’, while a more patient intensity builds as the counterpoint of op.131’s opening movement gradually unfurls. In the expansive sets of variations that lie at the heart of both quartets, these four players prove compelling storytellers.

The ensemble takes its name from the Italian luthier Simone Fernando Sacconi (1895–1973); all but cellist Cara Berridge (on a 1781 Gagliano) play Sacconi instruments from the 1920s and 1930s. The blend is ideal, although just occasionally there are moments when intonation goes minutely awry under pressure or in high-lying passages (the fourth variation in the Schubert, for example). Nevertheless, these are impressive performances, with concentration never allowed to lapse for a second. Happy birthday, Sacconi!