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While rumbling along for many a year as cellist to a quartet, I was often urging Schumann on the team. I was mostly unsuccessful, because my colleagues could not agree with Clara that this is essentially quartet music. Sometimes Schumann would destroy my case by perpetrating a lengthy passage of manic offbeat accompaniment such as occurs twice in the first movement of No 3. It has to be said that the Zehetmair Quartet has no technical problem at such a moment, nor anywhere else; I could wish indeed that the music had puzzled them more.

The disc is promoted as a 'record of the year' in one reputable journal; as an 'editor's choice' elsewhere. Clara, I feel, would be incredulous. It was she who settled the quartet metronome marks for the Complete Edition, making it difficult for her to comprehend how the brace of works could be despatched in less than fifty minutes. But the Zehetmair's apparent determination to break records is evident from the first Allegro in No 1 [listen -- track 1, 1:25-2:42].

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Copyright © 11 February 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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