The Kodály Quartet
have released volume 6 in their Naxos
cycle of the complete string quartets
of Schubert. The final release in this
much-praised series features the String
Quartet No.15 that was composed towards
the end of Schubert’s life when his
health was in decline. Also included
are the Five German Dances with Seven
Trios and a Coda, D. 90 - a product
of his mid-teenage years.
The Kodály’s now-complete
Schubert cycle joins their previously
released sets of the complete quartets
of Haydn and Beethoven. Both gained
excellent reviews for the Hungarian
ensemble’s intelligent and stylistic
interpretations; especially the critically
acclaimed and award-winning Haydn set.
Tantalisingly, I am informed that next
on the Kodály’s recording schedule
for Naxos are the Octets of Mendelssohn
and Bruch (the German composer’s last
work from 1920, which was only published
and premiered in 1996). The set is due
for release in June 2006.
String Quartet No.
15 in G major, D. 887, Op. 161 (1826)
output comprised mainly hundreds of
songs but also included fifteen string
quartets. The No. 15,
D. 887 was composed in eight days in
June 1826. Schubert was to only publish
one of his last four quartets during
his lifetime. D887 was published posthumously
in 1851. Although nowhere near as famous
and far less frequently recorded than
its more celebrated close predecessor
the Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the
Maiden’, the G major is no less remarkable.
Schubert biographer R.H. Schauffler
remarks on several key features, notably
the forward-looking modernity that surpasses
even that of the ‘Death and the Maiden’,
the rhapsodic quality of certain themes,
the characteristic variation between
major and minor and a more marked orchestral
The Kodály are
intense and incisive in the opening
movement Allegro. In the sorrowful outpouring
of the Andante they offer a reading
of expressive emotional power. With
the dynamic thrusts and rhythmic vitality
of the Scherzo I would have preferred
a touch more bite. In the closing movement
Allegro the Kodály are highly
controlled and offer just the right
amount of forward momentum.
As an alternative the
Lindsay Quartet provide a marvellously
phrased and attractively characterful
interpretation of the G major. I found
their reading enthralling throughout.
The work is available as part of a four
disc box set on Sanctuary Classics Resonance
RSB 403. My preferred version however
is the wonderfully expressive account
from the Italian Quartet from 1977 on
Philips 446 163-2. This has few peers.
Tänze (German Dances) with Coda
and Seven Trios for String Quartet,
D. 90 (1813)
The release is rounded-out
with the Five German Dances together
with a similar number of Minuets that
Schubert wrote in 1813, aged sixteen.
The Five German Dances retain
a joyful simplicity and the flavour
of a Schubertiade. In this infrequently
recorded score the Kodálys are
hugely impressive performing with self-assurance
and considerable vitality. In addition
to this fine account from Kodálys,
the spirited version from the Leipzig
String Quartet on MDG 307 0604-2 c/w
D. 810 Death and the Maiden is
also worthy of consideration.
The annotation is as
excellent as we have come to expect
from Keith Anderson and the sound quality
is up to the usual Naxos standard.
Not my first choice
version of the String Quartet No. 15
but these well performed and recorded
accounts are certainly worth collecting
and they provide a worthy conclusion
to this successful Naxos series.