The Strad Issue: January 2016
Description: Schubert’s quartet masterpieces on historic instruments
Musicians: Terpsycordes Quartet
Composer: Schubert

This package comprises Schubert’s first mature quartet movement and his massive final essay in the genre. The Terpsycordes’ major selling point is its use of a matching set of gut-strung ‘period’ instruments made by members of the Vuillaume family and reproduction bows modelled on those of John Dodd; however, apart from the players’ adoption of a pitch standard of A=430Hz, their selective vibrato usage and substantial fidelity to the text, that is as far as their historical awareness goes.

A few idiosyncrasies and intonation lapses aside, these accounts are technically excellent, imaginative, dramatic and expressive, penetrating well below the music’s surface. The musicians bring strong characterisation to the Quartettsatz, unanimous in approach and alert to every mood, and they sustain the challenging, monumental span of the G major Quartet with convincing continuity, judging tempos effectively, phrasing musically, blending sensitively and extracting the utmost tragic intensity from its vast, symphonic proportions. They offer a wide variety of textures and telling dynamic contrasts in the turbulent outer movements, and perform with striking delicacy and refinement in the quieter passages – particularly in the emotional slow movement, which has enormous depth and humanity, and the nimble scherzo. The recording is warm, focused, clearly defined and astutely balanced.

Robin Stowell