Schubert Death and the Maiden Review

Released 2006.  

BBC Review

It’s the first recording the Takacs has made for its new label Hyperion, and they...

Andrew McGregor 2006

Two great Schubert string quartets from 1824, written just after the composer had been hospitalised as the first signs of syphilis made themselves uncomfortably obvious, and while Beethoven was preparing a grand concert in Vienna to showcase his new Ninth Symphony. Schubert knew that he’d begun living under a death sentence, and he too was determined to leave major musical landmarks for posterity.

The ‘Rosamunde’ Quartet is a profoundly melancholy work, even by the standards of late Schubert, and the Takacs Quartet plumbs its emotional depths with an ideal balance of lyrical beauty, nostalgic longing, and terrible uncertainty.

Their playing in ‘Death and the Maiden’ is even more impressive; from the stark, vibrato-less opening, there’s no doubt that where in the ‘Rosamunde’ we might have been teetering on the edge of a precipice, here we’ve plunged into the abyss, and the Takacs don’t shrink from the anger and violence of the score. Yet somehow they manage to negotiate these elements without ever making an ugly sound, where some competitors throw everything to the wind to make their points.

The ensemble, even with a new viola player, is impeccable - this is still a quartet that sounds as though it breathes and thinks as one – and some of leader Edward Dusinberre’s playing is intensely beautiful.

The recording is superb: up close and personal, so all the detail’s there, yet there’s enough ambient detail to stop it from becoming too invasive. It’s the first recording the Takacs has made for its new label Hyperion, and they must be thrilled with it.

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