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Following the Artemis Quartet‘s prizewinning Beethoven Quartet cycle on Virgin Classics, the Berlin-based ensemble has recorded Schubert’s last three quartets, works that Artemis cellist Eckart Runge praises for both their “incredible simplicity and purity” and their “almost terrifying modernism”.
Awarded both Germany‘s prestigious Klassik ECHO award and France’s Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros in 2011 for their Virgin Classics Beethoven cycle, the members of the Artemis Quartet now release an all-Schubert CD. It presents the composer’s final three string quartets: No 13 in A minor, ‘Rosamunde’ (which draws on his incidental music for Helmina von Chezy’s play Rosamunde); No 14 in D minor, ‘Death and the Maiden’ (with its haunting second movement based on his song Der Tod und das Mädchen), and No 15 in G major.
Schubert and Beethoven were contemporaries in Vienna, and Beethoven is reputed to have returned some of the younger composer’s admiration, but, as Eckart Runge, cellist of the Artemis Quartet points out: “In some senses, Beethoven and Schubert could hardly be more different.” He goes on to say that “The Artemis Quartet’s intensive experience of performing and recording the Beethoven cycle between 2009 and 2011 has provided new perspectives on every other quartet we play. There is an almost terrifying modernism in these three late Schubert quartets, but it is totally different from the modernism of Beethoven. And, when placed together in a programme, the three quartets shine in another light: No 14 is concentrated and dramatic; No 15 is huge, symphonic, and cosmic, and No 13 is introspective and melancholy – less spectacular than the other two.
Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 'Death and the Maiden'
Andante con moto
Scherzo. Allegro molto
Schubert: String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, D804 'Rosamunde'
I. Allegro ma non troppo
III. Minuetto. Allegretto
IV. Allegro moderato
Schubert: String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, D887
I. Allegro molto moderato
II. Andante un poco mosso
III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
IV. Allegro assai
14th June 2012
“Technically, the Artemis's performances are very fine indeed; their choice of tempi tends towards briskness, but the articulation and sense of phrasing are generally so well judged that only in the first movement of the D minor Quartet, D810, Death and the Maiden, does the result seem just a bit breathless.”
1st July 2012
“ferocious fortissimos, pianissimos of wonderful delicacy, infinite variety of textures and elasticity of tempo, combined with an implacable pursuit of the musical argument worthy of the divine huntress from whom they take their name. Their unanimity of sound is matched by — and evidently springs from — an extraordinary unanimity of feeling.”
“Bold, unflinching readings...that nevertheless offer playing of great delicacy and refinement in quieter passages. With some of the finest Schubert playing on disc...this is urgently recommended.”
“Go straight to D810, Death and the Maiden. The two opening fortissimo motifs are like clarion calls. The Artemis Quartet are tersely explosive, fiery in attack, the sforzandos in the transition stabbing the air...the Artemis enlarge perceptions, push frontiers and perhaps question received wisdom.”
“The Artemis enjoy growling, clashing, shivering, and the relentless energy of the last movements. Theirs is an impressive, vividly recorded approach.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.