BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber Reviews -

String Quar­tets: No. 9 in G mi­nor; No. 14 in D mi­nor (Death and the Maiden)

Chiaroscuro Quar­tet BIS-2268 (hy­brid CD/SACD) 62:47 mins

Just nine years sep­a­rate Schu­bert’s G mi­nor Quar­tet of 1815 from his Death and the Maiden Quar­tet. The dis­tance trav­elled is colos­sal, yet there is so much of the later Schu­bert in the G mi­nor Quar­tet com­posed when he was just 18; there is also his clear love of Mozart, in par­tic­u­lar the great G mi­nor Sym­phony, and ad­mi­ra­tion for ★aydn in the slow move­ment and fi­nale. The Chiaroscuro Quar­tet are par­tic­u­larly good at cap­tur­ing the more for­ward-look­ing mo­ments, no­tably the minia­ture but vi­sion­ary de­vel­op­ment of the first move­ment. Their use of gut strings and a his­tor­i­cally-in­formed ap­proach pro­duces fo­cused tone through­out; the playing might seem hard-edged at times, but their rhyth­mic poise is a con­stant de­light and they are al­ways re­spon­sive to the in­ter­play be­tween in­di­vid­ual lines

In­evitably, their ap­proach in Death and the Maiden is more in­tense; the first move­ment, fast in tempo but with flaw­less fig­u­ra­tion, is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive. The same con­cen­tra­tion car­ries through into vari­a­tions of the slow move­ment; here rather more con­trast in dy­nam­ics and more of a pres­ence from the first vi­o­lin might have pro­duced some wel­come mo­ments of seren­ity. The Scherzo re­turns to the im­pres­sive im­pe­tus of the first move­ment while the Trio has mo­ments of ex­quis­ite ten­der­ness. Some may find the Chiaroscuro’s ap­proach a lit­tle re­lent­less, and the sound could cer­tainly have been more res­o­nant, but on its own terms this is a richly com­pelling ac­count. Jan Smaczny



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