Customer Review

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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