Takács String Quartet

Schubert: Death and the Maiden

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Among the outpouring of compositions completed in Schubert's last years are his final two string quartets, intended to be part of a set of three. Both cast in minor keys, the D minor Death and the Maiden Quartet and the A minor Rosamunde quartets represent different aspects of Schubert's depressed, downtrodden state of mind. The D minor is the more forceful, agitated, and aggressive of the pair, while the A minor begins each movement in hushed tones and gives more of a sense of introspection and melancholy. This Hyperion album, a reissue as part of their 30th anniversary, features the sublime Takács Quartet. No matter how many recordings of these two epic quartets may be on the shelf, this one is absolutely a must-have addition. The power and refinement that Takács brings to these works is something that must be heard to really appreciate. The Death and the Maiden is ferocious, with the Tarantella finale frenetic in its fervor yet still completely under control. Rosamunde is performed with the utmost angst and delicacy. The most striking aspect of this album is Takács' sound quality and Hyperion's capturing of it. No quartet in memory achieves the same stunning assertiveness equally in all four parts. Hyperion's sound makes it seem as if individual instruments are about to explode from the speakers. Unequivocally one of the best recordings ever of these quartets, and certainly a must-have disc.

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