- String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887 (Op. posth. 161)
- 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
After releasing its complete Beethoven cycle on Virgin Classics in late 2011, the Artemis Quartet follows up with a double-disc presentation of Franz Schubert's last three string quartets. This is the group's second Schubert foray, a logical step to take after the 2008 release on the same label of the "String Quintet in C major," with cellist Truls Mørk, and the "Quarttetsatz in C minor." Schubert's final works in the string quartet genre bear a particular significance, not merely because they are mature compositions that show impressive formal development, but also because they reflect the composer's growing agitation and profound depression over his imminent mortality. The "String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, Rosamunde"; the "String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, Death and the Maiden"; and the "String Quartet No. 15 in G major" are among Schubert's most sublime statements, and they require the emotional power and spiritual depth an ensemble would give to Beethoven's late quartets. The Artemis Quartet earnestly tries to imbue these pieces with gravitas, but the passion that is called for is held in check by a technical restraint: the group tries too hard to follow Classical performance practice and plays with little vibrato throughout, creating a fastidious and impersonal effect that works against Schubert's raw and heart-rending expressions. While the performances are quite serious, and the Artemis' playing is impressive for its clarity and precision, there is a cautiousness that suggests that the musicians were more concerned with getting every note and dynamic right than with communicating Schubert's larger intentions. The sound quality is clean and highly resonant, which adds to the ensemble's glassy sonorities.