Notes and Editorial Reviews
The three string quartets, Op. 41, of Robert Schumann date from the middle of 1842, the same period when he also composed the Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44, so their inclusion together in this double-disc album from Onyx is appropriate, if slightly curious. While the Piano Quintet is among the most popular pieces in the chamber repertoire, the string quartets have languished in a state of comparative neglect and are relatively under-represented in the catalog. The shadow of Beethoven loomed large over many composers in the 19th century, and the example of his extraordinary late string quartets made successors appear lacking by comparison; this is the most likely explanation for the weak standing of Schumann's Op. 41, and why the
Piano Quintet escaped invidious comparisons. Yet these clear-eyed and thoughtful performances by the Gringolts Quartet demonstrate that Schumann's abilities in the string quartet genre were considerable, and they show his careful balancing of the parts and bring out the motivic coherence he derived from Beethoven. The Gringolts are absolutely secure in playing these works, but there is a noticeable burst of energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the Piano Quintet, which is shared by pianist Peter Laul. Onyx provides fairly focused recording of the strings, but the piano recedes into the background, perhaps because of the microphone's placement in the highly resonant church acoustics.
-- All Music Guide
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