12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Dance of Death,
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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Initial post: 27 Sep 2013 15:45:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Sep 2013 15:47:47 BDT
Retired Don says:
Indeed, an astonishing achievement. But not "the Czechs" -- I believe that three are from Slovakia (and the violist from just ten miles across the border).
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Sep 2013 16:17:53 BDT
Thank you for reminding me, I'll correct it!
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