Schumann String Quartets, Op 42 Nos 1 and 3
“One of the world’s most sought after string quartets” is how these four young women are introduced in the booklet, which then lists their formidable awards in many prestigious international competitions, and their appearances in still more prestigious cities world-wide as well as their American homeland. So it was no surprise to be greeted with playing of bold assurance and uncommonly full-bodied projection. Always they emphasize the succulence and sheer physical zest of music written in a great uprush of creative joy on Schumann’s reunion with Clara after painful, sterile solitude during her first extended post-marital concert tour.
All that acknowledged, I still felt their general approach – and particularly in the more romantically communicative A major work – just a little too overtly ‘new world’ to be wholly Schumann-esque. Somehow they try to squeeze too much out of everything, with point-making, and not least their accentuation, doubly underlined. With often slightly more leisurely tempo and subtler dynamic contrasts and nuances, Germany’s still youthful, excellently reproduced Vogler Quartet convey all the composer’s emotional intensity and rhythmic adventure while preserving a more shapely continuity of flow. Nor should collectors forget an earlier coupling of Op. 41, Nos. 1 and 3 from the Koeckert Quartet reviewed very favourably in