I Solisti di Perugia

Schubert Arranged by Mahler

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Admirers of string quartet music, particularly of the great works of Franz Schubert, understand that the effectiveness of the writing and the depth of expression depend on the intimacy of four players in close proximity. The inward-looking nature of quartet music is what makes the String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, "Death and the Maiden," so powerful and emotionally penetrating, and the immediacy of Schubert's music is communicated by the four instruments in conversation. This necessary quality is lost in Gustav Mahler's arrangement of the quartet for string orchestra, and in a real sense, the privacy of Schubert's music becomes public in this setting. Furthermore, with the fattened orchestral string tone, the counterpoint becomes heavier and thrown out of balance, and the textures that are clear in the original are quite muddy in the arrangement. I Solisti di Perugia cannot be blamed for Mahler's handiwork, and as far as any string orchestra can make the music sound decent, this ensemble plays with as much clarity and reserve as can be offered. The Five German Dances and the Andante from the String Quartet No. 13, "Rosamunde" (neither of which were transcribed by Mahler) are provided as filler, for "Death and the Maiden" is really the main attraction here. Mahler fans may be interested in giving this CD a try, but it's an essential item for completists and only a curiosity for others.

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