|Review by andrewb June 12, 2007 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
|A truly delightful performance by the Mandelring Quartet, they give a refined and civilised account of the principal quartet D804 where repeated hearings certainly increase ones pleasure and understanding of the music.
Unlike some accounts given by other quartets, the Mandelrings do not over indulge in the pathos of certain sections of the “Rosamunde” quartet - take the opening bars of the first movement allegro, the Italian quartet play these moments with greater intensity but when this fades it leads to a lessening interest in the following sections. The Mandelring Quartet maintain a much finer balance and interest throughout the movement and the quartet as a whole, through their avoidance of excessive emotion at individual points thus leading to a much more satisfying reading that gives, overall, a more sustained and heartfelt effect.
This balance and restraint provides an extremely fine architectural structure for each movement, whereas lesser readings can seem to be a series of disconnected themes, and individual details can here be clearly heard and held in context.
Also remarkable is the ensemble with which the Mandelrings play, as fine as any quartet that I have heard. The cellist, first and second violinists are siblings and have played together as a family unit and as a string quartet for many years, now with the violist, Roland Glassl. Together these family ties and years of practice with one another have given the quartet an amazing ability to interplay with each other as the music unfolds, leading to magical insights for the listener. This interplay coupled with the most delicate phrasing and colouring, which is given to each of the complex sections within the A minor quartet, allows the Mandelrings to perfectly illustrate the mystery and enchantment of Schubert’s music.
The Quartet in E major (D353) which is from Schubert’s youth, was composed at the age of nineteen, although lacking in interest compared to the A minor quartet it is here played equally as finely, although with an obviously much more light hearted feel.
The one disappointment of the disc is the sound quality, which is not as good as that on the Mandelring’s two Shostakovich discs to date – with the Schubert here, the strings, particularly the violins, have a dry and slightly hard quality when compared with the best string quartet recordings on SACD. It is particularly important with this disc to get the playback sound level right so as to get a good image and hear the detail but without hearing an unpleasant edge to the violins. It maybe that this slight hardness is not a fault of the recording, the recording hall is the same as on the Shostakovich discs, as is the equipment and the producer, perhaps the Mandelrings wanted to present this type of sound in the Schubert. Whichever it is, the ear adapts to this slight hardness of the sound and one only delights in the music, like any great performance this one transcends small imperfections in the recorded sound.
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