Notes and Editorial Reviews
These two quartets are among the best loved scores in the chamber repertoire. Many string quartets almost consider it a rite of passage to record them. Consequently there’s no shortage of recordings. In this highly competitive market I was fascinated to discover whether or not the Doric has anything special to say in these wonderful works.
One of the greatest chamber scores ever written Schubert composed his brooding String Quartet No. 13 in February 1824. The quartet reuses themes from the composer’s incidental music D797 to Helmina von Chézy’s unsuccessful 1823 play, Rosamunde. In the extended opening Allegro we hear melancholic yearning alongside a brooding undercurrent. The Doric’s playing has a vigorous,
expressive energy. A cultivated piece of writing the lyrical Andante contains a tender lilting melody. Beneath all this lyricism there’s a sense of uncomfortable foreboding. The Menuetto is akin to slow ländler with the players establishing a mood of brooding wistfulness tinged with melancholy. It’s a touch dark and unsettling. The refined Hungarian folk inflected Finale is joyfully optimistic yet leavened with earnest episodes. With beautiful control the perceptive Doric conveys a sense of music barely holding back an imminent surge forward.
The powerful Death and the Maiden is one of the most famous quartets in the chamber repertory and is full of melodic invention. Composed in March 1824 it follows straight on after the Rosamunde. Taking 15 minutes to perform here the opening Allegro radiates an exuberant vigour and the music just surges along. As is often the case with Schubert beneath the gloss the finest players can lay bare a disturbingly sinister sense of foreboding. The title stems from the theme of the substantial second movement Andante con moto which is taken from Schubert’s early song setting Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden) D531. This theme is the basis for the resulting set of variations and the impressive Doric characterise these most adroitly. I was especially struck by the funeral march opening with the theme suffused with melancholy and despair as if pining after the death of a loved one. The directly robust and distinctly Slavic Scherzo is free from the melancholic tension of the first two movements but replaces this with a sort of repressed passion. With robust playing at times the players cut deep into their strings without any fear of losing control. Playing with passion and vitality in the Presto, finale the Doric produce a powerful forward momentum that borders on the unruly. This is playing of total assurance which is needed as the conclusion is taken at breakneck speed.
The Doric have the benefit of first class sound, closely recorded, cool, crystal clear and with a well-adjusted instrumental balance. Does the Doric have anything special to say in these works? The answer is yes. These are exceptional accounts; superior to most available in the catalogue. With playing of genuine gravitas Schubert lovers need not hesitate.
– MusicWeb International (Michael Cookson) Read less
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