Dwarfing even the late Beethoven quartets in sheer length, Schubert's final String Quartet in G major, D. 887, clocks in at nearly an hour of performance time. This ambitious length made it difficult to appreciate in Schubert's Vienna and can even be a test of focus for modern audiences if anything but a superb performance is put forward. Fortunately for listeners of this Onyx album, the Kuss Quartet produces just such a performance. The approach to Schubert offers far more drive, intensity, and grit than the vast majority of recordings available. This does not cross the line into inappropriate playing decisions, but rather does everything possible to demand and maintain listeners' focus from start to finish while maintaining the beauty and grandeur of Schubert's score. Solid intonation, robust, well-balanced sound, wonderfully sparing use of vibrato, and clean, nicely matched articulation are but some of the hallmarks of the Kuss Quartet's playing. These same traits that breathe such life into the great Schubert quartet are brought to Alban Berg's Op. 3 String Quartet. Written some 90 years after Schubert's final quartet contribution, Berg's quartet is not surprisingly more adventurous in terms of harmony and intervallic relationships. Despite the obvious differences, the energetic, powerful playing of the Kuss Quartet works just as well here, and makes for an enjoyably well-balanced album.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D 887|
|String Quartet, Op. 3|