Schubert: String Quintet in C, D. 956

cover of Schubert: String Quintet in C, D. 956asin: B000001GFA
binding: Audio CD
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When not composing songs, Franz Schubert was most at home with chamber music, not because he was a miniaturist, but because his most profound thoughts were most readily contained by smaller, more concentrated ensembles. His Quintet in C—by far the great work ever written for a string quartet with an extra cello—shows him at his summit with an ethereal second movement that often communicates the sense of spiritual suspended animation that the minimalists strive for but don’t often achieve. The Emerson Quartet might seem a bit edgy for this assignment, but instead, the quartet delivers one of the best recordings of its career. Instead of just being swept away by its rapturous lyricism, the quartet probes the emotional depths and meaning of the music’s gestures in concentrated, deeply felt performances. The piece is clearly a particular favorite of guest cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (he has recorded it several times before), but like most good chamber players, his presence isn’t heard so much as it’s felt. Perhaps he is responsible for the particular warmth of this performance. —David Patrick Stearns