FOLLOWING a flurry of activity as a composer of string quartets at the tender age of sixteen, Schubert wrote only three further quartets during his period of apprenticeship – one in each of the three succeeding years. Looking back on his early efforts in the summer of 1824, just a few months after he had completed his Death and the Maiden Quartet D.810, he seems to have had scant regard for them. Responding to a letter from his elder brother Ferdinand, who described his pleasure at rediscovering those youthful pieces, Schubert told him, ‘it would be better for you to keep to quartets other than mine, for there is nothing to them, except perhaps that you like them, as you like everything of mine’.
Schubert had made a brief return to string quartet writing at the end of 1820, in a manner that showed his ambition to produce a work more intense and dramatic than anything he had attempted in the genre before. But just as his first serious efforts to master the piano sonata some three years earlier had resulted in several aborted projects, so, too, the string quartet of 1820 was destined to remain unfinished. Over the string quartet, as over the piano sonata, loomed the giant figure of Beethoven (‘Who can do anything after Beethoven?’,2 Schubert once complained to his friend Josef von Spaun); and perhaps it was unwise of Schubert to have chosen to make his return to the quartet arena with a piece in C minor – the key Beethoven had made so much his own. In terms of its actual material the one portion of the work Schubert did manage to complete – the so-called Quarttetsatz, or ‘Quartet Movement’, D.703 – is of the highest quality, though it is possible that he remained dissatisfied with its unorthodox form. At any rate, he abandoned the score after having composed no more than forty bars of its slow movement. The opening Allegro was published for the first time in 1870, more than forty years after Schubert’s death, while the fragmentary slow movement did not appear in print until 1897, when it was issued in the value to that of the ‘Unfinished’ Symphony.
Total time: 01:05:33
|Original Recording Format|
Meithner DSD AD/DA
Robina G. Young
Air Studios, Lyndhust Hall, London, UK
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||May 5, 2014|
This is not surface playing that hits the well-known high spots and then cruises along for long stretches-the players address the smallest details with equal intensity… the staggering beauty of the phrasing and seamless unanimity… is sublime.
I can’t imagine audiophiles anywhere not rejoicing over the sonics and interpretations in the newest release from the Tokyo String Quartet…
American Record Guide
One of the reasons I have always liked the Tokyo Quartet a great deal is their way of letting the music unfold. They never sound forced; they never try to show off how powerful they can sound or how vehemently they can express themselves. There is a sweetness to their sound and a naturalness to the flow when they play anything… this is a very good recording, and the SACD sound is glorious. If you like the sweet and rather light sound of this group, you will find it perfect for Schubert…
The Tokyo String Quartet with David Watkin promise much as they traverse the slow harmonic progression that opens the first movement, dynamic shifts expertly weighed, SACD recording spaciously lifelike… The exposition repeat has the last chord omitted the second time round. It’s an interpretative decision that has a ring of certitude, as does the finale, where the group respond to a kaleidoscope of changes with unflustered command. _They finish as impressively as they begin…
Outstanding performances of these much-recorded masterworks… Tokyo manages to convey that sense of competing emotions in a constant state of tension which is typically Schubertian.
An intense sweeping account…
This glorious work is played with impressive freedom of expression… The seraphic slow movement is especially fine.
International Record Review
In every way it is an outstanding disc.
[An] impressive performance…
A deep, dramatic reading that’s flawless throughout, this is first class… The high octane pairing of the players and the music was a match made in heaven… Killer stuff.
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