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Fully deserving of its 'Gramophone' award,
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!