SCHUBERT: String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, D. 804 “Rosamunde”; Quartet-Movement in C Minor, D. 703; String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat Major, D. 87 – Belcea Quartet
EMI Classics 2 35737 2, 73:21 ****:
Several auditions of this fine Schubert chamber music album (rec. 8-12 July 2002) have written the sublime tones of the A Minor Quartet (1824) on my heart. Its uncanny opening Allegro non troppo brings out the mysticism and haunted sense of mortality that permeates much of this composer’s work. The second movement, of course, takes its theme from both the Impromptu in B-flat Major and the incidental music for Rosamunde that Schubert composed in 1823. Even the light-hearted Menuetto seems downcast and filled with tender consolations for dark thoughts. The finale alone, Allegro moderato, provides a source of optimism in an otherwise chthonian twilight. The recorded sound, besides being absolutely resonant in the upper strings, proves close enough to capture the breathing of several of the talented principals of this young, gifted ensemble, established in 1994.
The otherwise gloomy Quartet-movement in C Minor (1820) actually glows in luminous though feverish tones, courtesy of violins Corina Belcea-Fisher and Laura Samuel, and the morose but energetic cello of Alasdair Tait. From lyric outpouring to desperate shrieks in the windy darkness, the short moment of agonized ensemble embodies the Romantic Agony we find in contemporaries Coleridge and Poe. The E-flat Quartet (1813), composed when Schubert was sixteen, betrays Schubert’s inexperience only in that all four movements are in the same key. Several nods at Beethoven occur in the course of the first movement, the most momentous of the four and spaciously developed, especially in colloquys between the two violins. The Prestissimo Scherzo enjoys a whiplash approach, a frisky razor of sound with a moody trio section. If the Adagio looks to Schubert’s liturgical music, the Allegro finale illustrates Schubert’s fondness for opera buffa, especially Mozart, with aroused rocket figures and a concertante aria for the first violin. Charm, beauty, melancholy grace–is this not the Schubert we covet?