The Quartettsatz is only one movement but it contains the qualities of greatness evident in all of Schubert’s late works. The Doric Quartet is always deeply expressive and also gives sufficient impulse to propel the music firmly while still sensitively caressing every phrase. The easing before the second melody is touching and all the more effective because the tune itself retains the basic speed. The musicians understand the significance of the many sudden contrasts and that the dramatic attacks – especially those marked fz – are more a shock than a mood-change because the abruptness of each is stressed with aggression, mostly so by the cellist; there is also much compassion within this performance.
The Doric musicians’ interpretation of the G-major Quartet brings out the best of the players and the shaping of the immense opening movement is superb. Again several of Schubert’s sudden fortissimo interruptions are featured but they are made part of the music and the subtly expressive touches elsewhere in the lengthy exposition are magical. Great credit to John Myerscough in his tense running descent in the first-time bars to herald the repeat; I envisage listeners feeling that they can hardly wait for the restatement of the opening. The movement takes twenty-two minutes but with playing of this quality it is not a moment too long.
The tender touches that these performers add to the Andante never interfere with progress: there is gentle, perfectly controlled rubato and the fierce interjectory passages evoke just the right amount of fear. This movement is unusually structured, rondo-like in shape but far from formal in contour – themes return but in a much altered form. The Scherzo benefits from not being rushed with the result that the Trio represents a continuation despite its required slower tempo. In the Finale there are occasional variations in speed with pressure being added when the music takes on a new dramatic aspect thereby achieving additional intensity. The two powerful rising chords that echo those found in the slow movement appear from time to time and here are stressed strongly.
There are several aspects which contribute to the excellence of this reading: care with which every phrase is fashioned, but it is the ability of the musicians to play so quietly and warmly that captures the imagination and which suits the beauty of these wonderful Schubert String Quartets to perfection. The acoustic of Potton Hall is a further factor, permitting ideal clarity in this beautifully balanced recording, and Bayan Northcott’s booklet note illuminates the music skilfully.