Schubert String Quartets Nos. 12 & 15
'This refined Czech ensemble gives a finely nuanced, warmly expressive reading of Schubert's final masterpiece in the genre...With demonstration quality sound, and a welcoming coupling, this performance deserves to be heard. Guy Weatherall, Classical Music Magazine, September 2013
Ever since their prodigious performance of Beethoven's quartet cycle in2008, the Wihan Quartet has established itself as one of the world's preeminent ensembles. Their latest recording, which features outstandinginterpretations of Schubert's Quartettsatz (D 703) and G major Quartet (D 887), brings the fiery panache of Beethoven to the highly troubled works of his Viennese contemporary -- a highly tenable aesthetic position, given the anxiety of influence that can be observed throughout Schubert's music. The performances heard here are but a taste of the high calibre of artistrythe Wihan Quartet brings to early Romantic repertoire. If the past five years are any indication of the future, the ensemble is destined to go down inhistory as one of the most important interpreters of Beethoven and Schubert. We can only hope that they continue along the path to solidify their place amongst the great quartets of the twentieth century -- an end that is certainly within their reach. Andrew Schartmann, Daily Classical Music, 29th July 2013
'The sound throughout is first-rate, especially in being free of the heavy breathing that has infected some quartet recordings. A outstanding release.' Mortimer H. Frank, International Record Review, July 2013
'One can only imagine the amount of hard work and preparation that has gone into these assured performances… The Wihan are strong and positive and certainly deserve to be heard.' Michael Cookson, musicweb-international.com
'These are excellent studio accounts of classics made in Prague's Martinu Hall, caught with excellent sound balance by engineer Ondrej Urban and just the right reverberation from the hall. Their playing is impeccable and virtually faultless whether live or from studio.' Peter Grahame Woolf, musicalpointers.co.uk April 2013
'If this is one of the finest examples of Schubert’s mastery as a composer of chamber music, so too the performances are worthy of that mastery.
Aided by one of the best and most atmospheric recordings imaginable, this disc can be welcomed with the utmost enthusiasm.
The G major Quartet is an ambitious piece, not least because it boldly occupies a span of some 45 minutes, as an example of Schubert’s ‘Heavenly length’. This clearly puts demands upon the performers in terms of sustaining interest through the quality and intensity of their playing. These demands are triumphantly met here.
The slow movement alternates between peace and turmoil, and the balance within the single construction is achieved through transitions which are most effectively handled. The shadings of dynamic are crucial throughout, and the recording allows these to be satisfactorily made, without any unnatural emphasis or changes of focus.
The outer sections of the scherzo third movement have a lightness of touch that suggests Mendelssohn, since this is true ‘fairy music’. If the central trio, with its rustic ländler music, feels somewhat less inspired, it still serves as a useful foil. The dance characteristic carries over into the finale, in which the Kodály players infuse the lively tarantella rhythm with the sparkle and wit of opera buffa.
This G major String Quartet was the last such piece that Schubert composed. It is less famous than the A minor (Rosamunde) and D minor (Death and the Maiden) Quartets, probably because it lacks a catchy title, but also because it makes considerable demands upon the performers. Those demands are well met here, in this excellent performance by the Wihan Quartet.
The coupling is the well known Quartettsatz in C minor. This single movement is always useful in concert programmes to fill the gap when a shorter piece is required. It has a similar function here. However, the musical quality makes this absolutely worthy of Schubert’s genius, and the intensity of the playing ensures that the Wihan performance enhances the value of this disc. Terry Barfoot, musicweb-international.com, May 2013