First published in the Guardian on 23 April, 2015
Kuijken Quartet/Boulanger (Challenge Classics)
A family affair, this: two generations of the Flemish Kuijken dynasty (brothers Sigiswald and Wieland, plus Sigiswald’s daughters Sara and Veronica) who share a proclivity for period techniques but opt for modern instruments on this recording. Schubert wrote his cello quintet in the autumn of 1828, body riddled with the syphilis that would kill him just a couple of months later. It took a quarter of century for the score to be published, but what a generous, profound parting statement it is. Usually the instrumentation — string quartet plus an extra cello, here Michel Boulanger — makes for gorgeously dark textures, but the Kuijkens keep things airy. There’s a lightweight quality to the first movement’s singing theme, a breezy spaciousness to the Adagio, a drowsy bounce to the Scherzo’s driving rhythms. It all sounds lovely, but puzzlingly laid-back for a piece that Sigiswald describes as “final and extensive witness to the deepest conditions of Schubert’s soul”.