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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Complete String Quartets Vol. 7
Quartettsatz in C minor D103 (1814) [8:11]
String Quartet No. 5 in B flat D68 (1813) [16:22]
String Trio in B flat D471 (1816) [7:59]
Five Minuets and Six Trios D89 (1813) [14:08]
Overture in C minor for String Quintet* D8 (1811) Ed. Hess [9:07]
Kodály Quartet; * with Gyözö Máthé (2nd viola)
rec. Phoenix Studio, Budapest, Hungary, 18-22 July 2005 DDD
NAXOS 8.557126 [55:48]

With this release, the Kodály Quartet completes its Schubert series for Naxos. This fine group was established over forty years ago and has previously recorded the complete Haydn quartets for the same label. The players bring similar attributes to Schubert – cultured but not over-refined playing which serves the music well.

Schubert’s quartets are numbered 1-15, all of which have four movements apart from No. 5 and No. 12. The latter is the well-known Quartettsatz dating from 1820 which happens to be in the same key – C minor – as the earlier unnumbered single movement quartet which opens this disc. What is more, the Deutsch numbers are similar (103 and 703). Having forgotten the existence of the earlier work – which is included in Melos Quartet’s set on DG – I was fooled into anticipating something rather different on first hearing. I was also thinking that it would be a good idea to juxtapose early and late works on the individual discs of such a series but everything here was written before Schubert had turned twenty. Although there are no masterworks on the programme, there is enough of interest to sustain the attention.
Apart from the reasonably well-known and melodious String Trio – another single movement work which Schubert apparently abandoned, the Quartettsatz is the most impressive piece on the disc. It consists of a dark and brooding slow introduction followed by a Haydnesque Allegro. As with quite a few of Schubert’s works, the score ended at the beginning of the recapitulation and had to be realised for performance – a task undertaken by Alfred Orel in the 1930s. The fifth quartet which follows appears to be the two outer movements of an intended four movement work. Despite the finale being light and tuneful, I missed the middle movements, and would regard this piece as being primarily of academic interest.
The rest of the music on the disc was new to me and is certainly worth hearing. The Five Minuets and Six Trios are so because the first work has two quite contrasted central sections between which the minuet is repeated, perhaps dispelling the thought that a dance might have been lost. The disc concludes with the Overture for String Quintet, a very early work which was only published in 1970. To suggest even the slightest anticipation of the late great String Quintet (D.956) – which of course doubles up on the cello – would be pushing it. Nevertheless, even at the age of fourteen, Schubert seemed capable of making the extra instrument count.

The Kodálys are rather better recorded here than they were in Haydn – a most natural result in a warm acoustic. The issue is well-documented and there is no reason for anyone who has collected previous issues in the series to hesitate over completing it by acquiring this one. Naxos should now issue the complete set in a space-saving box, a habit they seem to have gotten out of recently.
Patrick C Waller
Links to reviews of previous volumes in the series:
Volume 4 (8.555921) - Quartets 1, 4 & 8
Volume 5 (8.557107) - Quartets 2, 6 & 11
Volume 6 (8.557125) - Quartets 15, 5 German Dances




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