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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Schubert:- Death And The Maiden Quartet and String Quintet In C Major
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 6 January 2017
This is Schubert in Cinemascope, a widescreen version emotionally amplified but not the more effective for it. When, back in my youth, I was watching Ben Hur on televison, the top and bottom of the screen were unfilled by the picture. I get the same feeling when listening here, it's all impressive and expressionistic but there is something missing. There is no doubting the talent and technical capabilities of this quartet, but I miss the understated and subdued in the expression, some breathing and straightforwardness that lets the drama play out within the listener. If you're looking for a high powered gothic account of these works this is a choice. It's impressive but its effect wore out on me.
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on 9 January 2014
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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on 29 May 2017
Wonderful performance of 'Death and the Maiden'.
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on 27 September 2013
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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on 19 February 2014
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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on 19 May 2015
What can I say? I am now 67 and was not familiar with this Schubert quartet......A mind-blowing composition, a quartet of symphonic proportions, magnificently played by the Pavel Haas Quartet.
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on 23 September 2013
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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on 8 April 2015
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Converted me to Schubert.
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on 3 October 2014
I gave up after three attempts at trying to get hold of a copy that wasn't defective. There seems to be a manufacturing fault on the second disc which basically means that the last movement of the Quintet is unlistenable. Pretty poor for a full price set. Personally, I prefer the Takacs Quartet for Death and the Maiden on Hyperion and the Casals recording on Sony of the Quintet. The other recordings by the Pavel Haas Quartet of Janacek, Prokofiev and Dvorak are fantastic.
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on 25 November 2014
I did not like the tone of this quartet very much. I thought it sounded a little harsh and hard.
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