Kodály Quartet

Schubert: Complete String Quartets, Vol. 7

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The last volume in the Kodály Quartet's cycle of Schubert's complete music for string quartet will primarily appeal to listeners who have heard the previous discs in this seven-disc cycle or listeners who have a yen for string chamber music by the teenage Schubert. The biggest piece here is the strenuous String Quartet No. 5, a two-movement work consisting only of Allegros written when the composer was 16. The best piece here is the energetic String Trio in B flat major, a single-movement Allegro written when the composer was a mature 19. The most charming works are the delightful Five Minuets and Six Trios written, like the quartet, when the composer was 16. The most disappointing piece here is the wayward Quartettsätz in C minor. Not the famous C minor Quartettsätz, D. 703, from his 23rd year, but an earlier single-movement sonata-form work without a title from Schubert's 17th year, this Quartettsätz starts with a portentous Grave, but soon switches to a strongly imagined but not quite cogent Allegro. The most ambitious work here is the very serious Overture in C minor for string quintet written when the composer was a mere 14, with its solemn Largo introduction and its dramatic but not altogether convincing Allegro. As previously in this cycle, the Kodály Quartet plays with consummate mastery. The tone is clear but nicely inflected, the intonation is clean but warmly sonorous, the ensemble is tight but comfortably relaxed, the rhythm is sharp but thick and full, and the interpretations consistently make the best case for the music -- a task that sometimes takes some doing. While not for everybody, those looking to fill out the corners of their Schubert collection will be more than satisfied. Naxos' 2005 digital sound is very vivid, but perhaps a bit too close.

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