Schubert: String Quartets D.87 and D.804 "Rosamunde" (CD review)
I've been listening to this 2008 reissued EMI/Virgin Classics disc quite a lot in the past year or so. The first few times, I was sitting in front of the speakers in the living room; another time I was eating breakfast and reading the paper. Is there ever a bad time to listen to Schubert? He was quite the prolific composer, and it's a shame he died in his early thirties as he could have given us so much more. OK; be grateful for what we have.
In any case, what we have here are quartets from his earliest and a later periods. The first item is the String Quartet No. 10 in E Flat, D.87, which Schubert wrote in his teens. It's lighthearted, and lightweight, and overflows with good cheer. The next, from 1820, is an unfinished piece, the Allegro Assai from a work he titled Quartettsatz. One has to wonder why he never wrote anything more around it. The third and most important work on the disc couldn't be more different from the first two; it's the String Quartet No 13 in A minor, D.804, known as "Rosamunde" because the composer recycled the second movement from his "Rosamunde" ballet music of several years earlier. D.804 is more solemn, more melancholy, more mature, and more original than the other two pieces, perhaps reflecting the man's illness at the time of its composition.
The Borodin String Quartet capture the changing moods of the three works effectively, and the EMI/Virgin engineers in a recording made in 1991 maintain the tone of the composer and his works in sound that is at once warm, slightly soft, full, yet reasonably clear. It's a pleasant album that I look forward to hearing many times over.
Beautiful music; beautiful playing; more than adequate sound. And to make the deal even sweeter, I notice that dealers at Amazon are selling the disc new for around five bucks. Half that if you want it used. It's a tempting proposition.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.