This "collaborative exploration" of Schubert's String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 ("Death and the Maiden"), is experimental even by the standards of violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It offers the Schubert quartet itself, in an arrangement for string orchestra by Kopatchinskaja herself, that preserves the original quartet forces in some passages; between its movements come other works by Augustus Nörmiger, John Dowland, Carlo Gesualdo, and György Kurtág, along with a piece of Byzantine chant, all of them on the theme of death and often making specific musical reference to the content of the Schubert.
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for October marks the debut on the label by the Takács Quartet. After seventeen years recording for Decca, including multi-awarding-winning cycles of quartets by Beethoven and Bartók, this thrilling ensemble is now embarking on a new relationship with Hyperion; future projects will include works by Brahms, Janácek and Schumann. Schubert’s famous String Quartet, D810, subtitled ‘Death and the Maiden’, is one of the pillars of the repertoire. This new performance is electrifying, and was recorded following a global concert series, enthusiastically welcomed in the press: ‘The Takács’ reading of the second movement was characterized by unremitting pain and mystery.
Death preyed heavily on the minds of both Schubert and Sibelius when they were composing the two string quartets on this new recording from the Ehnes Quartet. Sibelius had undergone several operations to remove a tumour in his throat. The bleak and highly personal 4th Symphony is the masterwork from this period, but the string quartet ‘Intimate Voices’ of 1908 should not be underestimated. Taut and highly concentrated, it has an almost Haydnesque construction, and the quartet’s first movement’s sheer perfection of form approaches that of the 3rd Symphony’s opening movement.