Artemis Quartet to release Schubert’s last three string quartets on Virgin Classics
The Artemis Quartet is to follow
its award-winning survey of Beethoven’s complete string quartets with his contemporary Schubert’s final three essays in the form for Virgin Classics.
The release features the Quartets No. 13 in A minor, Rosamunde (which draws on his incidental music for Helmina von Chezy’s play of the same name); No. 14 in D minor, Death and the Maiden (with its haunting second movement based on his earlier song Der Tod und das Mädchen), and No. 15 in G.
Cellist Eckart Runge says the experience of performing and recording the Beethoven cycle between 2009 and 2011 “provided new perspectives on every other quartet we play. There is an almost terrifying modernism in these three late Schubert quartets, but it is totally different from the modernism of Beethoven. And, when placed together in a programme, the three quartets shine in another light:
No. 14 is concentrated and dramatic; No. 15 is huge, symphonic, and cosmic, and No. 13 is introspective and melancholy – less spectacular than the other two.
“Schubert has an incredible simplicity, while Beethoven’s quartets
are more elaborately structured. The genius of Schubert’s simplicity comes from the Lied – fundamentally, Schubert thinks in terms of
a singing melody over a bassline and a harmonic accompaniment.
That approach is rarely found in Beethoven’s quartets, which are packed with themes, counter-themes, motifs and structural elements. Schubert’s writing holds its own challenges: his purity, his focus on a single idea, means that the music is reduced to the essence of expression. You would expect that simple conception to presuppose
a short form, but he succeeds in creating lengthy works. The G major Quartet lasts 50 minutes!”
Composed in the final years of Schubert’s life before his untimely
death in November 1828, just two months short of what would have been his 32nd birthday, Runge says the three quartets “feel like late works. How can a man write this music at that age? It’s a cliché, but you can hear the proximity to death in his music. Schubert had a very concentrated life and was astonishingly prolific.”