Aside from both being German composers born in the first quarter of the nineteenth century who wrote one piano quartet each, Theodor Kirchner and Robert Schumann have one other thing in common: they both came to bad ends. Schumann died demented in a lunatic asylum, while Kirchner died paralyzed in a garret. Aside from being four-movement works for the same ensemble, however, Kirchner and Schumann's quartets have only one thing in common: they have both received first-rate performances by the Fauré Quartet. Schumann's is vivacious and vibrant and has been recorded dozens of times, while Kirchner's is eccentric and incoherent and has never been recorded, but both are performed by the Fauré Quartet with intense passion and complete conviction. In Kirchner's quartet, this results in a performance that makes the most of the work's intermittently appealing melody, its occasionally flashing harmony, its infrequently ingenious rhythm, while minimizing its odd transitions, rambling structures, and occasionally incoherent forms. In Schumann's quartet, this results in a performance that stands with the best ever made, a performance of incredible energy, immense strength, and tremendous sensitivity; of complete control, ecstatic excitement, and absolute balance. With or without Kirchner's quartet, this would be a terrific disc. With Kirchner's quartet, it's still a terrific disc. It's just that Kirchner's quartet makes Schumann's quartet sound better. Ars Musici's sound is close, warm, and open.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
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