R Schu­mann

BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber Reviews -

String Quar­tets Nos 1-3

Engegård Quar­tet

BIS BIS-2361 (hy­brid CD/SACD) 74:31 mins Of Schu­mann’s three string quar­tets, only the last, with its lyri­cal open­ing move­ment and its deeply felt Ada­gio, is per­formed at all reg­u­larly. One of its most orig­i­nal strokes is that its quick se­cond move­ment is cast as a set of vari­a­tions, rather than a con­ven­tional scherzo and trio. No less strik­ing is the vari­a­tion slow move­ment of the Se­cond Quar­tet, where the vari­a­tions them­selves are clearly re­lated to each other but seem to have noth­ing to do with the theme which pre­cedes them. An­other boldly in­di­vid­ual ges­ture oc­curs in the A mi­nor Quar­tet No. 1, where the main body of the first move­ment for­sakes the home key al­to­gether, in favour of a warmer F ma­jor. But all three quar­tets are shot through with Schu­mann’s in­nately rest­less char­ac­ter – ev­i­dent not least in the dis­turbingly dis­lo­cated syn­co­pa­tion of the mu­sic’s ac­com­pa­ni­ments.

The leader of the Engegård Quar­tet has an ex­pres­sive style of play­ing that suits these pieces very well, though the per­for­mances as a whole nev­er­the­less re­main rather stu­dio-bound. The best of them, per­haps be­cause of the mu­sic’s rel­a­tive fa­mil­iar­ity, is the Third Quar­tet, though even here the fi­nale’s cu­ri­ous gavotte-like episode lacks the courtly el­e­gance it in­vites. In the open­ing move­ment of the Se­cond Quar­tet the play­ers’ anx­i­ety to match Schu­mann’s sur­pris­ingly quick tempo mark­ing leads to an in­ter­pre­ta­tion in which the melodies seem never to have quite enough breath­ing space. In the end, it’s hard not to feel that for all their in­nate mu­si­cal­ity these per­for­mances don’t have quite enough to of­fer. Misha Donat



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