- String Quartet No. 13 in A minor ("Rosamunde"), D. 804 (Op. 29)
- String Quartet No. 14 in D minor ("Death and the Maiden"), D. 810
Historically oriented recordings of music from the early nineteenth century from outside the realm of keyboard music have generally been rare. But this release from the multinational Quatuor Terpsycordes shows some of the possibilities. The members of the quartet play copies of instruments from the middle of the century, deploying historical bows, and, most important, using catgut strings (which are not, by the way, made from cat guts). The results sacrifice purity and beauty of tone for dynamic range and dramatic impact, which emphasizes the Romantic qualities in Schubert's music. Hear the hushed conclusion of the slow movement of the "String Quartet in D minor, D. 810" ("Death and the Maiden"), for an example of the group's approach. The difference between this sound and that of a modern quartet is not going to be as startling as, say, a Beethoven-era fortepiano would be for someone who has heard only modern grands. The booklet notes lay stress on the supposed songlike articulation that the historical bowing makes possible, emphasizing the role of the lied as a source in Schubert's mature style. But this effect is more evident in the dynamic extremes; you can imagine a lot of the melodies heatedly delivered by a singer. The studio sound heightens the dramatic effect of the music, and its reception is likely to be a matter of individual taste: it puts the listener in the middle of the music but has a strangely artificial, colorless quality. This is an unusual recording of two very frequently played pieces that more than achieves its goal of contributing something new to the chain of interpretation.