Although Franz Schubert wrote nearly two-dozen string quartets, performances and recordings heavily favor the later, more mature quartets such as the immensely popular "Death and the Maiden" quartet and the quartet in A minor. While these clearly showcase Schubert's fully developed skills, the earlier quartets are every bit as worthwhile and provide unique insight into the composer's eventual growth and development. This 1996 recording by the Coull Quartet features the first three of these early quartets, the first of which dates from 1811 when the composer was all of 14 years of age. The fast movements of each quartet contain an immense outpouring of youthful exuberance and frivolity, much so than can be found in the later quartets. The slow movements already hint at the depth and profundity that is still to come. The Coull Quartet does a lovely job of capturing this energy from the score and translating it into a vivacious and spirited performance of these neglected quartets. Their combined sound blends well, the active inner voices are nicely present, and an enjoyable sense of spontaneity predominates. There are moments when the technical aspects of their performance are a bit rough around the edges -- less-than-precise intonation and spotty articulation -- but overall they offer listeners a suitable introduction to these valuable contributions to the literature.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
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