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Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, April 2012

the Kodály Quartet offer performances and recordings of Schubert at budget price which have little to fear from their more expensive competitors. With attractive covers and excellent notes from Keith Anderson, available to purchasers or to those with access to the Naxos Music Library, you can’t really go wrong. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Penguin Guide, January 2009

A truly outstanding performance of Schubert’s last and probably greatest String Quartet from the Kodály group, who open dramatically and encompass all the work’s magical changing moods with consistent concentration and deep feeling. Spontaneity informs every bar: the Andante has an unforgettable atmosphere of gentle melancholy, yet there is a joyful simplicity in the dancing finale, which is brilliantly played. Indeed, this is one of the group’s very finest records, for the infectious German Dances make a most engaging bonus, the closing Laendler particularly winning. First-class recording.

The Strad, September 2005

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Terry Barfoot
MusicWeb International, September 2005

"Schubert composed his final string quartet during 1826, and it appropriate that this masterpiece should be positioned at the threshold of his wonderful last phase. Yet he was still in his twenties when he wrote it. The G major Quartet is wholly original in style, in its adaptation of the tradition of the Viennese classical style inherited from Haydn and Mozart. Moreover the music has an ambition and spirituality which link its outlook to that of the late Beethoven quartets with which it is contemporary.

If this is one of the finest examples of Schubert’s mastery as a composer of chamber music, so too the performance of the Kodály Quartet is a fine example of interpretation and performances. Aided by one of the best and most ambient recordings to have come from the Naxos Budapest connection, this splendid disc can be recommended with the utmost enthusiasm.

The G major Quartet is an ambitious piece, not least because it boldly occupies a span of some 45 minutes, as an example of Schubert’s ‘Heavenly length’. This clearly puts demands upon the performers in terms of sustaining interest through the quality and intensity of their playing, and these demands are triumphantly met.

The slow movement alternates between peace and turmoil, and the balance within the single construction is achieved through transitions which are most effectively handled. The shadings of dynamic are crucial throughout, and the recording allows these to be satisfactorily made, without any unnatural emphasis or changes of focus.

The outer sections of the scherzo third movement have a lightness of touch that suggests Mendelssohn, for this is true ‘fairy music’. If the central trio, with its peasant ländler music, is less inspired, it does serve as a useful foil. The dance characteristic carries over into the finale, in which the Kodály players infuse the lively tarantella rhythm with the sparkle and wit of opera buffa.

This G major String Quartet was the last such piece that Schubert composed. It is much less well known than the A minor (Rosamunde) and D minor (Death and the Maiden) Quartets, probably because it lacks a catchy title, but also because it does make considerable demands upon the performers. Those demands are well met here, in this triumphant performance by the Kodály Quartet.

At the opposite extreme of Schubert’s career in chamber music lie the German Dances of 1813. He was but sixteen when he composed them, and they therefore reflect his reliance on the prevailing tradition of Viennese dance music. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and anyone who enjoys, say, the delights of Mozart’s dance music - and who would not? - will surely enjoy these engaging dances by the young Schubert; and they are beautifully played, too."

Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, July 2005

"These well performed and recorded accounts are certainly worth collecting and they provide a worthy conclusion to this successful Naxos series."

Victor Carr Jr, June 2005

The Kodály Quartet completes its Schubert cycle with this imposing performance of his final work in the genre. Quartet No. 15 often has been likened to the music of Bruckner, and many ensembles have followed this notion with symphonic-styled performances. The Kodály takes an opposite tack, presenting the work as an outgrowth of late Beethoven informed by Schubert's lyrical sensibility. The result is a classically oriented performance with relatively quick pacing married to deft, vibrant phrasing.

The first movement especially gains from this approach, here sounding more incisive than the slower, meditative readings by the Italiano and Juilliard quartets. In fact, in terms of tempo the Kodály is closest to the Alban Berg Quartet--though that ensemble's EMI performance, with its reverberant recording, offers an expansive sonic environment that is outside the realm of chamber music. With the Kodály you are definitely aware of four people playing four instruments, thanks to Naxos' intimate (though somewhat bass-heavy) recording perspective.

The first movement's energetic pulse informs the scherzo and (to a lesser degree) the finale, while the Andante flows at a perfectly judged walking pace. But tempo is only part of the story, as the Kodály's rhythmic precision gives the music a sense of sizzling immediacy, while the careful exposition of Schubert's beautiful themes exudes Old World romanticism. In all, it's a masterful performance, certainly different from the grand statements of the Alban Berg or Verdi Quartet, but attractive and insightful enough to intrigue newcomers to this work as surely as it delights veterans. This, plus the ensemble's lively reading of Schubert's Five German Dances, makes this a disc a worthy choice.

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