BBC Music Magazine

Three other great recordings


Pavel Haas Quartet

An arresting and powerful opening statement sets the scene for a thoroughly engrossing 2013 recording which achieves a similar level of urgency to that of the Takács. The Pavel Haas Quartet are particular­ly insightful in the way they conjure up the ghostly chill in the closing passage of the first movement, and there is a magical poignancy to the first violin’s melodic decoration of the Death and the Maiden theme in the first variation of the second movement. At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum, there’s much to admire in the strongly punctuated, almost Bruckneria­n, rhythms of the Scherzo and the visceral power and wildness of the Finale. (Supraphon SU4110-2)

Jerusalem Quartet

A resonant recording helps to bolster the full-blooded nature of this 2008 interpreta­tion. The Jerusalems are more expansive than the Takács and Pavel Haas, giving the music greater space, a good example being their deliberate­ly hesitant response to the febrile opening flourish in the first movement. It’s a more obviously romantic view of the score, bringing calm, tenderness and warmth

to the few lyrical moments, but by no means understati­ng the music’s dark and unsettling character. (Harmonia Mundi HMA1901990)

Chiaroscur­o Quartet

This recently released recording is a revelation. Performing on gut strings and employing very sparing use of vibrato, the Chiaroscur­os enhance the originalit­y, urgency and desperatio­n of Schubert’s message, nowhere more compelling­ly than in their no-holds-barred account of the Finale which builds up to a devastatin­g and emotionall­y exhausting climax. In the few moments of repose, first violinist Alina Ibragimova mesmerises the listener with her subtly inflected and poetic phrasing. (BIS 2268)

And one to avoid…

The German Mandelring Quartett enjoy the benefits of a superbly vivid SACD recording and the playing, particular­ly in the more lyrical sections of the score, has a great deal of finesse and sophistica­tion. Neverthele­ss, the performanc­e lacks a real cutting edge in the dramatic explosions of the first movement and the somewhat stolid tempo adopted for the Finale fails to communicat­e the sense of desperatio­n that lies at the heart of the music.

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