Fitzwilliam String Quartet - Bruckner: Quintet & Quartet - BBC Music Magazine

Stephen Johnson admires the Fitzwilliam's engaging Quintet

Hearing a really good performance of the Bruckner String Quintet can be a frustrating experience. It can make you realise how close this came to being a masterpiece - a strange, idiosyncratic masterpiece perhaps, but a very loveable one all the same The loud symphonic perorations to the first and fourth movements are just wrong, the Finale loses its way, the Scherzo's delicate-robust balance is tipped just a bit too much to the latter. Yet little sounds like orchestral music arranged for five strings. · 

One thing that helps is that the Fitzwilliam Quartet has been working on this music for a long time The players have wrestled with its quirks and uncovered its marvels. The first movement only really loses its grip at the very end, while the Finale keeps re-engaging, no matter how many times it may seem to drop the thread. Tender warmth radiates from page after page, dialogue between the voices emerges with keen, intimate intensity. The great Adagio - the one unqualified success of the work - is as exalted and touching as it should be, but for once one doesn't feel like going back to feast on that and ignoring the rest. It's a complete experience, flawed, but not deeply flawed, and beautifully recorded. Even the relatively early Quartet sounds more alive, less like a student exercise than usual. All round a fascinating, rewarding disc.

BBC Music Magazine
01 February 2016