SCHUBERT: String Quintet in C, D956, review

Geoffrey Norris writes:

Coming in at No 3 behind Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Schubert’s C major String Quintet of 1828 has long been a favourite on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, with 72 guests selecting it as a castaway essential since the programme started in 1942.

It is the Adagio second movement that everybody goes for, a piece of music that is so tranquilly sublime – at least in its outer sections and in the three-minute fragment usually played on Desert Island Discs – it makes time seemingly stand still. Even by Schubert’s standards, this is music of heavenly inspiration, but no more so than the rest of the Quintet. In the course of its hour-long span, the invention and structural instincts are of a supreme order; the sonorities created by the addition of the extra cello to the usual string quartet quota exude a blissfully mellow radiance that Schubert exploits with a refined ear for variety of texture and colour.

The Quatuor Diotima, more frequently associated on disc with the modern chamber repertoire, here teams up with the cellist Anne Gastinel for an outstanding performance of this transcendent work of Schubert’s last year.

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