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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dance of Death
The Pavel Haas Quartet was formed in 2002 and took their name from a composer whom they regard as central to the develoment of Czech music. A new recording by them is always an event and since winning Record of the Year at the 2011 Gramophone Awards (for Dvorak - String Quartets Op. 106 & 96 "American") anticipation has increased.

Here, again for their homeland...
Published 9 months ago by JB

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0 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Faulty CD
The first CD of the set was defective and couldn't be read by any of my CD players or my PC CD-drive. The second CD was OK and the performance of the string quintet was exceptionally good, appropriately fierce and moving. First-rate sound quality.
Published 6 months ago by Vassilis Maroulis


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dance of Death, 27 Sep 2013
By 
JB (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
The Pavel Haas Quartet was formed in 2002 and took their name from a composer whom they regard as central to the develoment of Czech music. A new recording by them is always an event and since winning Record of the Year at the 2011 Gramophone Awards (for Dvorak - String Quartets Op. 106 & 96 "American") anticipation has increased.

Here, again for their homeland label of Supraphon, the Quartet attempt what are unquestionably twin peaks in the Romantic landscape: Death and the Maiden and the String Quintet. Both of these works are associated with death; the Quartet was written in 1824 when the composer realized that he was dying. It takes its name from the song of the same name, which also provides the theme for the second movement. The Quintet was finished only months before his death in 1828, and ends with what some have taken to be Schubert's premonition of his own finality in its unison closing D-flat followed by C.

The force with which the players launch Death and the Maiden is astonishing, a statement of seemingly super-human effort which appears to transcend the medium of the quartet. This gives way to a delicacy, almost a frailty as fervor turns to despondency, hope to despair. The contrasts between death's terrors and comforts are brought into stark relief in playing which grips and doesn't let go, as we're drawn on relentlessly towards the final tarantella, the dance of death.

The Quintet's opening movement is laid out here with an expansiveness which is deceptive; below the surface the tension is acute, sustained notes intensifying and deepening, urgent undercurrents bursting out before being temporarily quelled. The tautness doesn't let up in the Adagio, as though any easing-off might allow the almost unbearable stress to cause a collapse in the musical architecture. The group, seemingly with a collective focus of will, drive onward in a parallel to the composer's last months of resolution to complete this undertaking.

An uncompromising recording which, with sometimes devastating focus, reveal aspects in this music which seem to lay bare what it is to be human in the face of mortality.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gramophone was right, 9 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
This new version of Schubert's two masterpieces was highly praised recently in The Gramophone. And they were right. The playing is extremely lively, intense and beautiful (e.g. the tone of the 1st violin). And the two works themselves are of course eternal masterpieces. Here they come alive the way they should.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning performances, 19 Feb 2014
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Mr. David Williams (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
Absolutely stunning performances of two of the greatest works in the repertory. What more can I say except that I look forward to more from this extraordinary quartet?! (Guest cellist also superb in the Quintet.)
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'What passion cannot Music raise and quell?', 23 Sep 2013
This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
Zounds! Egad! And, why not, Gadzooks! Not more versions of Schubert's Death and the Maiden and his beloved String Quintet! Both have received profligate treatment at the hands o'the gramophone from revered bow-botherers since time immemorial. What could these young upstarts possibly have new to say about the bitumen-black heart of the former and the arcane mysteries of the latter?

Quite a lot, as it happens.

These chaps and chapesses play with an almost ludicrously euphonious tone. Vibrato is applied judiciously (that is to say, there is very little), but there is none of your hairshirt self-mortification that some historically-informed groups have. Modern instruments are, I believe, employed. And oodles of sensibility. 'Feeling'. One is given the impression that they are entangled in a dangerous embrace with these passionate works. Life or death stuff. These aren't superficial exercises in technique, a routine run-through, but heartfelt renderings to be locked on that precious silver disc for however long forever is. In other words, these rapscallions actually give a damn. They actually transmit whatever it is Schubert was trying to transmit as he stood astride the grave, eyeing its abyss.

This is a disc of supreme balance: gusto and restraint at apposite moments and neither to excess. The motif from Death & The Maiden's opening is underscored without becoming either banal, hysterical or camp melodrama. The cellist in the Quintet is Danjulo Ishizaka, lauded by no less a bow-merchant as Slava himself. So, what of that keystone movement, the adagio? Here is that bewitching otherworldliness so often only hinted at in rough approximation but never quite achieved. Reader, my flabber was quite gasted! A moment of transfixing transcendence betwixt the most beautiful gossamer pizzicato plucks! There is a stillness after the turbulent middle section, just before the opening music returns . . . verily, it is a grey and motionless seascape. Here eternity beckons. These eerie wisps of sound and the sense of the infinite are then echoed in the 'andante sostenuto' section of the third movement, which is played with such rapt delicacy that it sounds like a ghost bird cooing in your ear, inducing piloerection on the nape of one's neck.

To sum up: flawless without sounding sterile, polished without that paucity of sensibility oft found in modern recordings, and receiving a warm, spacious recording that isn't miked too closely, so that our ears snag on fingers fretting strings, etc.

'What passion cannot Music raise and quell?' Dryden enquired. It's a question the Pavel Haas Quartet have answered in full on this venerable recording. The question is, dost thou dare to know?
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As advertised, 28 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
A wonderful recording of a much-recorded classic. These are exceptional musicians and the quintet, especially, is very finely judged. A success.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 29 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
Brilliant but slightly fiercely played, I prefer Schubert to be lyrical and even dreamy. Better than the other recent releases, but not as lovely as the Hollywood Quartet or the Busch.
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0 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Faulty CD, 31 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major (Audio CD)
The first CD of the set was defective and couldn't be read by any of my CD players or my PC CD-drive. The second CD was OK and the performance of the string quintet was exceptionally good, appropriately fierce and moving. First-rate sound quality.
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