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The sheer greatness of Schumann’s three string quartets of 1842 remains inexplicably underappreciated, so it is good that the Stradivari Quartet provides strong performances. Two members play on Stradivari, the first violin and the cellist. The recording is a touch dry, but there is no doubting the fervent nature of the interpretations. The drama of the Scherzo of No 1 needs the balm of the Adagio (with its Beethoven Ninth allusion thematically and emotionally). The F major quartet breathes a calmer air, its set of variations (on a theme from Schumann’s own Albumblätter) probing and intimate, while the A major third quartet boasts an Adagio of heart-melting beauty.

If a period approach is desired, one might prefer the Eroica Quartet, otherwise the Stradivari Quartet is a real contender for the crown. The St Lawrence Quartet recorded fine performances of Nos 1 and 3, but if the complete set is required, one need not hesitate.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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