Fitzwilliam String Quartet - Schubert: Late String Quartets - MusicWeb International

This is Schubert the mystic staring deep into the au delà in a way that no other composer ever has, before or since. The Fitzwilliam Quartet aren’t interested in showy dramatic moments for their own sake but have their eyes on the overall arc of the movement. It is one of the best accounts I know of this profound movement. The real eye opener for me was the performance of the slow movement. The slow movement emerges as virtually an expressionist psychodrama that, more importantly, grapples with the darker undercurrents of the opening movement. Rather than a losing of the thread, it becomes an intensification of it. There is real pain in this music as played here and, strangely for Schubert, there is precious little consolation. It is as if, in playing down the drama (relatively speaking) in the first movement, the Fitzwilliam’s have ramped it up here. Heart stopping moments are almost too numerous to mention. I was gripped from first moment to last. The last two movements are Schubert fixating on a rhythmical figure. I imagine that Beethoven’s influence loomed over this compositional tick. The Fitzwilliams do not convince me that the outer sections of the scherzo are much more than run of the mill Schubert but I was pleasantly surprised by the similarity in mood they found between the trio and the more profound moments of the first movement.

Overall what I enjoyed most about this version of the G major quartet is the unity of vision and purpose the Fitzwilliam Quartet bring to the entire work. Even the massively elongated first movement makes sense in that it is revealed not as one quarter of the whole work but almost half of it to which the other three movements are responses. This makes for a deeply satisfying listening experience which has made me reevaluate my view of the work. It is a hugely impressive recording.

MusicWeb International
19 January 2022