Quartetto Italiano – Schubert: String Quartets (1976) [Reissue 2016]
SACD Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 64:39 minutes | Front/Rear Cover | 2,64 GB
or DSD64 2.0 Stereo (from SACD-ISO to Tracks.dsf) > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | Front/Rear Cover | 2,54 GB
or FLAC Stereo (carefully converted & encoded to tracks) 24bit/96 kHz | Front/Rear Cover | 1,28 GB
Features Stereo and Quadrophonic Surround Sound | Label: Pentatone # PTC 5186232
This release in Pentatone’s Remastered Classics series reveals a remastered recording by the Quartetto Italiano, originally recorded by Philips in January 1976. On this album, the Quartetto Italiano performs Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 10 D87, which comes from his middle period as well as his String Quartet No. 13 D804, also referred to as “Rosamunde” from the late period, a great masterpiece and one of the most outstanding quartets of the entire string quartet repertoire.
My interest in this Quartetto Italiano (QI) reissue was piqued more by sonic considerations, being from that golden era of quadraphonic recording when the technology was certainly working, but the marketing machinery failed. This largely condemned the compact disc, then under development, to a stereo-only existence. More, however, on that later – the music first.
Well, mostly music. Both Schubert works on this disc appeared together on the original Philips LP. The QI omit the exposition repeat in the first movement of the A minor quartet, which at the time enabled all thirty seven minutes of the work to occupy one side of the LP – possibly among the longest ever. Whether it was an artistic or a production decision, I can’t tell you. On the other hand, the QI take their time over the Andante second movement, which quotes the theme from the first interlude of the composer’s incidental music to Rosemunde. In their hands, though, it’s beautifully shaped and paced, with an impressive command of feeling. Indeed, the QI’s full bouquet is on display here; their unanimity and breadth of tone, and not forgetting their renowned insight and precision. The latter is nowhere better than in the Italians’ delightful bowing for the Allegro finale of the earlier E flat quartet, which is played with equal aplomb and affection as the Rosemunde. In their time, these performances were widely considered the best available, and arguably maintain that standing today. They did, and still do, offer an ideal introduction to Schubert’s music of this genre.
One of my queries about the quadraphonic version of this recording was whether, with four instruments involved, the producers had elected to place one in each channel, landing the listener in the musical crossfire. I know some find this engaging, and indeed such spatial effects do work well with various kinds of music, but for me a string quartet recording isn’t one of those. It was therefore with some relief when the QI appeared as a frontal image only, with indirect, ambient sound from the rear channels completing the surround effect. I was also curious whether some hardness of tone that was a characteristic of QI recordings from that period would still be there. This only became evident when the recordings were first reissued on CD and the hardness mistakenly termed ‘digital edge’, when in truth it was an artefact of the analogue recording technology. (This misconception didn’t only affect QI recordings, of course, and the problem was exacerbated by the recording companies often digitising noisy, distorted, compressed nth generation copies of analogue mastertapes for initial CD release, which for many listeners unjustly gave CDs a bad name.) That these Pentatone transfers are multichannel suggests sources very close to the original mastertapes have been used. A trace of hardness is, however, still present. In surround sound, this tends to limit the image depth and the sense of ‘being there’. Notwithstanding all that, though, I don’t think you’ll ever hear these QI recordings, in surround or stereo, sounding as good as they do here.
Classic performances, 1970s state-of-the-art sonics, and a quadraphonic bonus for surround sound buffs. – Review by Des Hutchinson, musicweb-international-com
01. String Quartet No.13 in A minor, D.804 “Rosamunde” – Allegro ma non troppo
02. String Quartet No.13 in A minor, D.804 “Rosamunde” – Andante
03. String Quartet No.13 in A minor, D.804 “Rosamunde” – Menuetto (Allegretto)
04. String Quartet No.13 in A minor, D.804 “Rosamunde” – Allegro moderato
05. String Quartet No.10 in E flat, D.87 – Allegro moderato
06. String Quartet No.10 in E flat, D.87 – Scherzo: Prestissimo
07. String Quartet No.10 in E flat, D.87 – Adagio
08. String Quartet No.10 in E flat, D.87 – Allegro
Paulo Borciani – violin
Elisa Pegreffi – violin
Piero Farulli – viola
Franco Rossi – cello
This album was recorded in January 1976 at Théâtre Theatre, La chaux de Fonds, Switzerland.
Original Quadrophonic Recording from 1976 by Philips Classics.
Remastered in February 2016 by Polyhymnia International for Pentatone in Baarn, The Netherlands.