While Robert Schumann is responsible for many examples of fine string writing with his quartets and symphonies, this work initially feels as if it is written from the perspective of an accomplished pianist.
The piano often alternates with the team of strings who respond together, with the piano introducing much of the material as well as providing the transitions between string entries.
The composer’s wife, pianist Clara Schumann, delighted in it, writing in her diary:
“In the evening we played Robert’s E-flat Major Quartet for the first time at our house, and again I was really enchanted by this beautiful work, which is so youthful and fresh, as if it were his first.”
It is the slow movement Andante Cantabile that gives a beautiful opportunity for the strings to really sing.
Recorded 2 February 2019, Nelson Centre of Musical Arts by RNZ Concert.
Sound Engineer: Graham Kennedy