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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quartet No.14 in D minor, D810, ‘Der Tod und das Madchen’ (1824) [38’58]
String Quartet No.10 in E flat, D87 (1813) [24’27]
Henschel String Quartet (Christoph Henschel, Markus Henschel, violins; Monika Henschel, viola; Matthias D. Beyer, cello)
Rec. Bürgerhaus Pullach, on July 23rd-24th (D810) and December 22nd, 1997 (D87). DDD
ARTE NOVA 74321 59220-2 [63’25]

This is an identical coupling to the Yggdrasil Quartet’s new Schubert disc on BIS (CD1201: see my review). Both quartets have youth on their side, and enthusiasm shines through the Henschel’s playing. First impressions are positive: the first movement of ‘Death and the Maiden’ is suave and confident, if a bit on the surface of the music (more depth to the recording would doubtless have helped matters, also). Nevertheless, their seriousness of intent in the famous Variations on the song that gives the quartet its nickname is captivating. A particular highlight of this performance is the third movement Trio, which sighs most affectingly. The Presto is exactly that, scampering along infectiously and leading towards and exciting close, although the Yggdrasil’s way with the melodic ‘flick’ in the opening bars is surely closer to what Schubert intended (it is almost lost in the Henschel performance).

The E flat Quartet, D87, suits the Henschel’s light approach. They play with much character (and energy in the second movement, a Prestissimo Scherzo). Only the over-light recording detracts from the Adagio.

Overall, they provide a fair amount of pleasure, without completely entering Schubert’s world. The difference between the Henschel and the Yggdrasil makes it worth the extra expenditure for the BIS disc, however, which is altogether a classier product.

Colin Clarke

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