If Shostakovich’s Seventh String Quartet is much slighter than Schubert’s ‘Rosamunde’ in running time, it more than compensates with a rawness of feeling – even desperation – that the Schumann Quartet brought out with precision as well as sympathy.
The players’ exactness (Alexander Sachs from the Eliot Quartet standing in for Ken Schumann) was evident from the opening bars, lines highlighted carefully to reveal Shostakovich’s structure; it was never a performance wallowing in sentiment, although in the second movement especially the meticulousness added to the haunting quality. The third was angry, worried, hectic, with savage figurations cutting through, and the subdued close of the work was suitably shattering. All in all, a deeply satisfying and musically variegated account that allowed the different moods to speak plainly without losing the intense, unrelenting character of the whole.
The Schubert may be worlds-away in atmosphere, but the Schumann members’ greatest strength remained the ability to bring out phrases that really matter. They accentuated thoughtfully with dynamic contrasts and at moments built to a controlled emotionality which, if not as heart-on-sleeve as the Shostakovich, was nevertheless almost as effective in this much more restrained context.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- Wigmore Hall www.wigmore-hall.org.uk