Takács String Quartet / Ralph Kirshbaum

Schubert: String Quintet D. 956; String Quartet D. 703 "Quartettsatz"

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The Hungarian-American Takács Quartet (with American cellist Ralph Kirshbaum) has released a groundbreaking series of recordings of Haydn's and now Schubert's quartets, holding close to the ideal of the string quartet as dialogue in recordings that are circumspect yet tense, with a great deal of detail in the individual parts and just as much attention to the overall structure. This reading of Schubert's late String Quintet in C major, D. 956, is once again very fine, and it's worth the attention of anyone wanting to know this giant work well. The piece is close in its dimensions to the Symphony No. 9 in C major ("Great") that inspired Robert Schumann's "heavenly length" characterization of Schubert, and the intensity of the dissonances that open the work propels the quartet through the entire giant structure of the movement. Throughout, the Takács exercises its usual superb control over the long line. If there's one thing here that's not quite on the level of earlier Schubert recordings, it's the lyrically exuberant sections, above all the G major theme in the first movement. This apotheosis of Viennese warmth does not have the lilt that, say, Pablo Casals brought to the work with his cello-led quintet, and the mysteriously dark interlude that interrupts the hunt-music Scherzo is also just the slightest bit restrained for some tastes. But this may, after all, be a matter of individual taste. The single-movement Quartettsatz, D. 703, closes the album in fine, tight precision, and Hyperion contributes superior engineering at the Wyastone Estate concert hall.

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