The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Well-integrated playing of Schubert from a vintage ensemble
Musicians: Tokyo Quartet, David Watkin (cello)
Composer: Schubert

Though there have been changes in the membership of the Tokyo Quartet since its formation back in 1969, the ensemble has retained its refined sound and impeccable performing standards. Its account of Schubert’s String Quintet, with David Watkin as the additional cello, opens with an Allegro that unfolds at a natural and unhurried pace, with the textural detail always clean and clear. MartinuBeaver’s principal violin often melts into the general texture to a much greater extent than in most other recordings I have encountered, and the two cellos are allowed to sing with an unforced elegance.

Having avoided the usual temptation of overheating the emotional intensity in the long opening movements, the players give a weighty account of the scherzo and an unhurried finale to balance the work more successfully than one often hears. It is also a well-played interpretation full of keenly observed details and is strongly recommend.
There is, however, some questionable intonation in the Quartettsatz. Otherwise, dynamics are perfectly shaded, though the pulse sometimes changes rather abruptly. The usual Allegro is followed here by its unfinished, rather sorrowful-sounding accompanying Andante.

The recording is close, intimate and warmly textured.