Philips - 1 LP - 9500 409 - (p) 1978
Philips Duo - 2 CDs - 446 163-2 - (c) 1995

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

String Quartet No. 15 in G major, Op. 161 (D 887)
55' 03"
- Allegro molto moderato
22' 50"

- Andante un poco moto
13' 33"

- Scherzo (Allegro vivace) 7' 21"

- Allegro assai
11' 19"

- Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, violino
- Piero Farulli, viola
- Franco Rossi, violoncello


Luogo e data di registrazione
Musica Thtre Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds (Svizzera) - 17-23 luglio 1977

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Willem van Leewen

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 9500 409 | 1 LP | (p) 1978

Prima Edizione CD
Philips Duo | 446 163-2 | 2 CDs - 75' 41" - 66' 24" - (2, 1-4) | (c) 1995 | ADD


As well as the works of Beethoven - and this coincidence of time and quality was responsible for a deal of the neglect suffered by the younger composer - the early decades of the nineteenth century also produced the string quartets of Schubert, which were to become influential models for the remainder of the century, particularly for the quartes of Dvořk and Reger, but also for the works of Bruckner, Wolf, and Mahler. The G major Quartet Op. 161, Schubert's last, most comprehensive, and, in the opinion of many scholars, best work in this form was written in the space of a few days, between June 20 and 30, 1826.
From Schubert's correspondence we know that it had a private performance in the home of his friend Vincenz Lachner in the spring of 1827, in which Schubert himself took part. On March 26, 1826 the first movement of the quartet was given at the only public concert under Schubert's own direction, in the concert hall "Zum Roten Igel" of the Vienna Musikverein, the performers were members of the famous Schuppanzingh Quartet, with the violinist Joseph Bohm substituting for their leader, who was III. The first public performance of the whole work, by the Hellmesberger Quartet of Vienna, was not until December 8, 1850, the score, which Schubert had tried in vain in February 1828 no have printed by the house of Schott in Mainz, was finally put out by Diabelli in Vienna in 1851.
Since then G major Quartet has for long - in many cases, right up to the present day - been overshadowed in terms of performance and appreciation by the two popular Quartets in A minor, D. 804 and D minor ("Death and the Maiden"), D. 810. There are two main reasons for this; it has not the slightest apparent connexion with the two earlier works; and its lenght, coupled with the technical demands it makes on the players, may well have scared oft many an ensemble. In addition, critics have complained of the work's "orchestral" nature, outwardly indicated by numerous tremolos without recognising the altogether different nature of their function in the structure of the work.
In terms of form, tone colour, and harmony this G major Quartet marks a tremendous step forward, beyond even the advances made in the D minor Quartet; indeed, the motto-like thematic statement at the beginning of the first movement, on an otherwise unconnected major and minor chord - repeated in the C major String Quartet, Op. 163, of 1828 - has influenced composers right up to Mahler, in his Sixth Symphony. Its emphasis on variety of tone colour and contrasts of tonality have had a strong influence on the development of harmonic thinking is the nineteenth century, setting against Beethoven's style of closely linked development am almost "collage" -like effect.
The first movement of the G major Quartet (Allegro molto moderato), adheres, in its broad lines, to the sonata principle - but of greeater interest are the deviations from it, for example what appears to be the disproportionately lenghtly treatment of the secondary theme, which - and this is typically Schubertian - with its changing tone colours in the harmony ezhibits that calm, selfcontained quality that is so far removed from Beethoven's driving and striving. The two-part first subject, however, unfolding itself against a background of the tremolos already mentioned, fits more obviously into orthodox sonata form; but Schubert, in the comprehensive development section, unleashes harmonic rather than structural forces; and the recapitulation, which begins with the continuation of the opening motto theme, is so greatly changed, varied, and developed, that its summing-up function becomes unimportant in comparison with the impression it gives of striving for more and still more harmonic variety and increased excitement in the individual parts.
In spite of the song-like, rather straighforward setting of the Andante un poco moto, the rhythmic and harmonic energy of the first movement is still evident: a three-bar bridge passage juxtaposes rather than links it with a heroic middle section which harks back to the dotted rhythms and dynamic eruptions of the first movement, but these heroices never take on the defiant, "Per aspera ad astra" bravura of Beethoven, which was alien to Schubert's almost modern style.
The scherzo, Allegro vivace, like the slow movement set in the mirror, may be compared with that of the "Great" C major Symphony of 1828, and its influence can be felt in the scherzos of many Bruckner symphonies. Here, as in many of the late quartets of Haydn, with whom Schubert has a closer affinity than with Beethoven, the theme is nothing, the treatment everything. It is balanced by a gentle trio in Landler form, almost a piece of genre writing.
The finale, Allegro assai, has been described by the Schubert scholar Walter Riezler as one of "the most inspired, the most claring, and the most perfect movements" that Schubert ever wrote. In rondo form, loaded with development material and in a restless 6/8 rhythm, it has a certain relationship with the finale of the D minor Quartet, but closer analysis reveals the inner variety and the structural, tonal, and melodic richness of the movement which, despite all its apparently uncestrained fantasy, despite all the persipheral detail, is tremendously compact. The harmonie ambivalence, again expressed here by the contrast of major and minor, owes a particular charm to the chromatic writing for the middle voices and the rapid and continuous permutations of basic tonality; we have here, then, a vigour and an energy which are steployed not only in melody and rhythm, but which contain contradictory harmonic elements phase shifting, and tonal and structural principles which were not to be exploined fully until the twentieth century
Wulf Konold