Henschel Quartett

Schubert: String Quartets

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Turning from recording Mendelssohn's quartets, Germany's Henschel Quartet here couples Schubert's most popular quartet, the D minor "Death and the Maiden" Quartet from 1824, with one of his least-known quartets, the E flat major Quartet from 1813. As with Mendelssohn, the Henschel Quartet pushes Schubert's tempos -- the Allegros are faster than Allegro, the Presto is faster than Presto, and the Prestissimo is faster than Prestissimo, thereby repeatedly violating the aesthetic speed limit. The insistent ostinato in the D minor's Andante con moto sounds more like a march than a heartbeat and the dynamic levels sometimes reach beyond chamber music toward heavy metal. Oddly, this approach works less well in the anguished D minor Quartet than in the lyrical E flat major Quartet. Whereas the playing makes the later work sound more histrionic than dramatic, it makes the earlier work sound more confident and mature. In both works, the Henschel Quartet performs with a great deal of skill, although it still has a tendency to fray slightly when the going gets tough. Arte Nova's reissued 1997 digital sound is big and direct, but possibly too close for some listeners.

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