Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Schubert quartet derives its title from the composer's use of his song of the same name as the theme of the second movement, where it is treated in a set of variations. This view of death is a Romantic one, the grim reaper as a friend who will lead the maiden to blissful, eternal sleep. The Matthus quartet of 1996, written for the Peterson Quartet, paints quite a different picture, a view of death hastened by drugs and hallucinogens, which wrack the body with pain and torment, plunge the mind into a nether world, and then unceremoniously dump the body into darkness. When the Schubert theme is finally quoted in the closing moments of the third movement, it seems as if a weak, pitiful cry from
another world. It is too late. The Matthus work is powerful and pungent and savage in the extreme, right down to having the players strike the strings with their hands; and yet it is quite accessible, as we might expect from a composer who writes much theater music.
The young men of the Petersen Quartet have no technical restraints on them, playing with assurance, rhythmic vitality, and near-perfect intonation. The group's approach to both the Schubert and Matthus quartets is one of high drama. This sheds new and vital light on the earlier work, which emerges much more powerfully than ever, and fully realizes the bizarre, kaleidoscopic, virtuoso writing of the modern work. Even those who do not normally find chamber music enjoyable are liable to like this recording. It has now become my favorite version of the Schubert, and a striking introduction to a major new work. What a powerful--and logical--coupling they make.
--Rad Bennett, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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