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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Record of the Year 2003, 4 Feb 2004
This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
"This disc should certainly not be judged by its cover! ECM’s austere monochrome artwork and minimalist type do not even hint at the glories that lie inside." the Gramophone Award Committee wrote when presenting this CD.
Schumann’s string quartets, dedicated to Felix Mendelssohn, slip quietly in and out of the record catalogue. Given the recording at hand this is entirely remarkable because the CD houses playing of a passion and intensity that is very rarely encountered on disc. The Zehetmair Quartet were not a full-time quartet – their first violin, Thomas Zehetmair, has to juggle with a high-profile solo career as well as being conductor of the Northern Sinfonia – but they come together for periods of intensive study, rehearsal, concert-giving and recording. It is a real shame that their period of collaboration was rather short-lived. They were also one of very few quartets who don’t use scores when they perform – and I think you can tell within a few bars that something special is going on. Rob Cowan wrote of these performances that they are ‘quite simply, the best: agile, excitable, nervously intense and in the slower music probing to an almost painful degree. Theirs is a dialogue that brings Schumann’s spirit to life, which is pretty rare in an age that so often seems unresponsive to Romantic sensibilities’.
In short, get that CD now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly magical, 25 Nov 2008
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Mr. J. R. H. Black "jrhb" (East Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
Exquisite music, exquisitely played. I have loved this CD for five years.

The balance of the players, the subtlety of their response, and, above all, the beauty of the music make this a very special experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars real intensity, 5 May 2014
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This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
After the ecstatic reviews of this disc I had high expectations. In relation to the 1st quartet they were amply rewarded, for the 3rd quartet, I prefer the limpid and dance-focused interpretation of the Quartteto Italiano.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Game-Changer, 18 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
In many a composer, we go looking for their late works and in parallel, disparage the compositions of their youth. Schumann is the exception. Whatever one might say about his later works, is there a richer seam of gold in the world than his corpus from Opus 1 to 54? Not all of them are masterpieces but duds are minimal. What can one say of Opus 41, his three string quartets written in the year as the great Piano Quintet (1842)? It is a testimony to Schumann's plenitude that he could take such a foreign medium and bend it to his will. How idiomatic they sound! Take the finale of the first quartet: who is not zapped by the self-contained meditation before the coda? It's as wondrous as the passage that leads into the finale of the Fourth Symphony. To ask how he did it is as asinine as calculating how many angels can dance on a pinhead. The Force was with him.

Ignore the most unimaginative cover of all times and Edith Eisler's fulminations (she's a googy-egg); contained herein are performances that are worthy of this music. For once, a latter-day Gramophone gets it right by empurpling this disc as the Record of the Year in 2003. Hitherto, I never held Opus 41 in much esteem. Hearing this has led to a Copernican Revolution. This music is inspired; whilst indebted to the usual sources, Schumann has his own voice in his domain. Conscious as they are of transience, the slow movements are threnodies: farewell my lovely! Passionate and poetic by turns, the Zehetmair Quartet burns like the sun. The outfit is perfectly integrated with one another. They're men on a mission: these compositions are masterpieces. By comparison, how wan are the Medici Quartet on EMI!

Do not purchase this disc unless you're prepared to be proselytized to the cause.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fully deserving of its 'Gramophone' award, 27 Nov 2012
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
Schumann attempted something very new with his set of 3 quartets Op. 41. This was a break away from his title-focussed work such as he wrote for the piano with a new focus towards music freed from such literary constraints. In this he was following the advice of his wife Clara and the example of his friend Mendelssohn. Sadly it was shortly after this success that his own health plummeted never to recover.

On this disc we hear just two of the quartets which makes this short playing time as well as being irritatingly incomplete. There are two rival recordings that provide all three quartets on a single disc in modern sound and with good performances. So why consider this one?

The clue lies in the fact that it was considered so special in terms of interpretive intensity as well as technical accuracy that it won a coveted Gramophone award. The reasons for the award become apparent from the very first notes and this is maintained until the very last notes. This group of players was something of an 'ad hoc' group which met as schedules allowed from other musical engagements. The group were also unusual in so far as everything they played was done without scores in performance. This implies a particularly close identification with the music beyond the notes and that is what makes this disc special.

For collectors this makes the disc a 'must have' buy regardless of the lack of completeness. For other purchasers the choice is not so clear as it is clearly much cheaper to buy one of the alternative good discs. But good is not the same as inspired and that will be the problem to be addressed by future purchasers!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong first quartet, 4 April 2009
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R. Hagues (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 (Audio CD)
The ghostly introduction of the first quartet gives way to strong motivic writing in the classical tradition with good, subtle exploration of moods. Strong outer movements. The scherzo is a definite highlight. The slow movement is lyrical and elegiac, quasi late Beethoven. I'd highly recommend the first quartet.

The third quartet fails to live up the expectations generated by the first quartet. It is an altogether less accomplished piece, with weaker musical ideas and textures. The inner movements do reach the foothills of emotional intensity. The finale is overly influenced by his piano style and 'miniaturist' idiom. There are moments throughout the quartet which are interesting, enjoyable and characterful but it isn't in the same league as the first quartet which is a 'must have'.

Superb playing throughout.
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Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3
Schumann: String Quartet Nos. 1 & 3 by Robert Schumann (Audio CD - 2008)
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