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Schubert: String Quartets Vol. III - Mandelring Quartett

Schubert: String Quartets Vol. III - Mandelring Quartett

Audite  92.552

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Schubert: String Quartet No. 9 in G minor D.173, String Quartet No. 15 in G major D.887

Mandelring Quartett


Following the outstanding success of Volumes I and II of the Schubert String Quartet series, the Mandelring Quartet now present Vol. III. Once again an early work has been coupled with a late one. Eleven years lie between the eighteen-year-old composer’s early Quartet in G minor and the Quartet in G major written when he was twenty-nine. The present combination of works illustrates the compositional development covered by Schubert during these years. If, despite his imaginative way of dealing with tradition, he still felt rather bound to it during his early creative years, during the later years it was at most a backdrop through which only a glimmer of formal norms can be perceived.

Schubert was hardly rewarded for such originality; not one of his string quartets was published during his lifetime and none of the later quartets were publicly performed. They were, at any rate, far too technically difficult to be managed by anything less than a professional quartet, the only exception being the “Rosamunde” Quartet (Vol. II).

The G-major Quartet, in its length of 50 minutes alone, already goes beyond the customary scope of the chamber works of its time. The musical means, too, including tremoli, large-scale developments and huge curves of intensification have orchestral character; the movements’ structures are unusual and independent. Schubert composed the G-minor Quartet, on the other hand, for the domestic family string quartet. Although this Quartet is a good deal more strongly orientated on the traditions of its time, it is also clear here that Schubert’s phase of assimilation and imitation of musical models was gradually drawing to a close.

The Mandelring Quartet have succeeded in developing a musical vision with the highest level of interpretative expertise. The drama hidden in these quartets is exposed and revealed to the listener in an organic manner through all ups and downs, thanks also to the excellent recording technique.

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Review by John Broggio - June 18, 2008

This, the third volume of the Mandelring's exploration of Schubert's chamber music, contains the third and last of Schubert's "great" quartets (although it does not derive the slow movement from another work, which is why it has no "name").

As with the other volumes, the playing is exceptional in the refinement with which the music played yet still retaining a highly impassioned spirit. Too often one is forced to make a choice between technical perfection (and boredom) or highly interesting performances (but with "strained" tuning) - not here! Choosing sensible tempi, all movements are allowed to expand in a lyrical, dramatic manner that transports the listener on an emotional roller-coaster. Employing all repeats (in common with the earlier volumes) this makes the first movement in particular gargantuan in length; with playing of this standard of musicality, this is a cause for celebration - truly a case of "heavenly length" here. Due to the similarity of textures, it can only be hoped that the Mandelring players will commit to disc an account of the String Quintet before too long. Again, casting ones mind over concert performances and great recordings of the past, the name that pops into the mind is the Busch Quartet. The Mandelring players are not dominated by their leader though and this more balanced approach makes the music much more human in feel; nor are there the frequent rhythmic instabilities (other than those specified by Schubert) that blight many older quartets preserved in their interpretation. Wonderful stuff!

The very early quartet D173 is Schubert's 9th acknowledged work in this medium. As many of his juvenilia, this looks back to the earlier days of quartet writing. Indeed, the first movement is a quasi-concerto for the first violin and very well played it is too by Sebastian Schmidt; his intonation is impeccable - not many soloists manage similar passage work as well. The rest of the quartet is less memorable but is still a very satisfying listen in such capable hands.

Like their other Schubert recordings, Audite manages to capture the Mandelring's sound to absolute perfection.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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