Schubert: String Quartets D.87 and D.804 "Rosamunde" (CD review)

Also, Quartettsatz. Borodin String Quartet. Virgin Classics 59099 522099 2 5.

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.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa