The Chiaroscuro Quartet is not the first group to play music of the early 19th century with historical bows and gut strings. As with the fortepiano, these materials work well with the kind of interpretation that emphasizes drama and immediacy. But you'll rarely hear them applied as well as in this reading of Schubert's String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 ("Death and the Maiden"). It's not clear whether Tom Service's notes, emphasizing the centrality death would have had in the lives of Schubert and his hearers, were written after hearing the Chiaroscuro's remarkable performance, but it certainly seems possible: here, death is palpable and terrifying. The quartet's musical center of gravity is usually the slow second movement, the set of variations on Schubert's own song, but here it is the big first movement that takes center stage. First violinist Alina Ibragimova's 1780 violin by Anselmo Bellosio produces an astonishing dynamic range, and the group's attacks are both furious and coordinated at a very deep level. "Death and the Maiden" is paired with the String Quartet in G minor, D. 173, and that work emerges with unusual clarity as an initial encounter with the ideas developed in the later work. BIS' Deutschlandfunk studio sound is another main attraction in an extremely compelling Schubert recording.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden'|
|String Quartet No. 9 in G minor, D173|