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.
While these recordings by the Hungarian Quartet contain perfectly acceptable performances and adequately idiomatic interpretations of Schubert's later chamber music for string quartet and quintet, they contain nothing more than that. In the late '50s and early '60s, the Hungarian Quartet was a widely respected group playing in the central European tradition of plumy intonation, sugary sonorities, sometimes scrappy ensemble, and often sentimental interpretations.
These performances of three early and one "late" symphony of Schubert are both bracing and youthfully brisk, done on tart "period" instruments of Schubert's time. This produces what Schubert would have heard and expected to hear. Just listening to each performance convinces that these are "right." Sound is good. Warm and focused.(amazon.com)
Deutsche Grammophon's affordable Trio series revives great recordings from the past, many long unavailable and coveted by collectors. Yet this 2004 triple-disc set of Schubert's late string quartets and the Quintet in C major, performed by the Emerson String Quartet and Mstislav Rostropovich, is identical to the 1999 release in all respects except for packaging and price, and will be superfluous to owners of the first edition.
"The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said." Taking a cue from these lines of Philip Larkin, pianist Simone Dinnerstein casts her album of the music of J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert in poetic terms. Her understanding of the composers is summed up in her own words: "The music of Bach and Schubert share a distinctive quality, as if wordless voices were singing textless melodies." Of course, Bach and Schubert were masters of setting texts to profoundly expressive music, so it is fruitful to look for the lyrical impulse in their keyboard works and appropriate to find songful interpretations. Yet Dinnerstein doesn't merely serve up rhapsodic renditions or treat the music as some kind of tuneful vehicle for idiosyncratic or personal reveries. Her playing is quite in character for both composers, and her treatment of the material is far from self-indulgent. Indeed, counterpoint and harmony are carefully balanced against the upper lines, and Dinnerstein is completely in control of the inner parts in Bach's partitas and the rhythmic subtleties of Schubert impromptus. Dinnerstein's playing is well-rounded and skillful, and the care she lavishes on the smallest details of execution may well remind listeners of Glenn Gould (without his attendant eccentricities) or Angela Hewitt.