Thursday, April 27, 2017

Franz Schubert - String Quartets Nos. 13 & 14 (Takács Quartet)


Composer: Franz Schubert
  1. String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden": I. Allegro
  2. String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden": II. Andante con moto
  3. String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden": III. Scherzo: Allegro molto
  4. String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden": IV. Presto
  5. String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D. 804 "Rosamunde": I. Allegro ma non troppo
  6. String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D. 804 "Rosamunde": II. Andante
  7. String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D. 804 "Rosamunde": III. Menuetto: Allgretto
  8. String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D. 804 "Rosamunde": IV. Allegro moderato

Takács Quartet
Edward Dusinberre, first violin
Károly Schranz, second violin
Geraldine Walther, viola
András Fejér, cello

Date: 2006
Label: Hyperion



New viola-player, new label - and a new benchmark for Schubert?

With their Decca Beethoven cycle, the Takács Quartet set a modern-day benchmark. Now, with a new record company and a replacement viola-player, things look set for them to do the same for Schubert’s two most popular string quartets. These works were written in 1824, a year of despondency for Schubert who was ill and clearly felt he was living under the shadow of death. Whereas in the Rosamunde, the underlying feeling is a tearful nostalgia, in Death and the Maiden, there’s a black despair that at times gives way to anger.

The Takács have the ability to make you believe that there’s no other possible way the music should go, and the strength to overturn preconceptions that comes only with the greatest performers. Tempi are invariably apt – the opening of the Rosamunde is wonderfully judged. Turn to the recent acclaimed Belcea Quartet disc and they seem just too slow here. And in the first movement of D810, even the classic Busch reading doesn’t sustain tension through the dramatic silences quite as potently as the Takács. They also have a way of revealing detail that you’d never previously noticed – in the Allegro of D810, Schubert’s sighing figure in the viola (from 3'00") is here poignantly brought out.

But though there’s plenty of humanity in these recordings, there’s nothing sentimental about the playing; they make Schubert sound symphonic, and a sense of drama and tensile strength underlines everything, even a movement as luscious as the Andante of the Rosamunde Quartet, which is based on the theme that gives this quartet its name.

The recording captures the quartets vividly and realistically and Misha Donat’s notes are erudite and stylish.

-- Harriet Smith, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer who was extremely prolific during his short lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical era and early Romantic era and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. His music is characterized by pleasing tunes while still has "a great wealth of technical finesse".


Takács Quartet is a string quartet, founded in Hungary, and now based in Boulder, Colorado, United States. In 1975, four students at the Music Academy in Budapest, Gábor Takács-Nagy (first violin), Károly Schranz (second violin), Gábor Ormai (viola), and András Fejér (cello) formed The Takács Quartet. Current members include: Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola), and András Fejér (cello). The quartet has recorded for Decca and Hyperion.


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