How much does your early exposure to a given piece influence your understanding of the music? I grew very fond of a DG recording of the three Schumann, Opus 41, paired with the three Brahms, titles, either from the Melos Quartet. Same with Alban Berg Quartett. Rifling through the spotify database, both these acts have oddly missing titles, including Schumann… TWO editions of the Melos for the Schubert C Major Quintett (with Rostropovich), a Berg Teldec compilation, but no Schumann from either. (Looks like the DG licensed the Melos Schumann/Brahms package to Newton Classics.) So I did some scouring, thinking surely a Masterworks Juilliard recording would get a hit, which it did, the celebrated 1969 recording with the piano Quartet and Quintet, with Glenn Gould (Opus 47) and Leonard Bernstein (Opus 44) on keybs (both very fine). But then, whoa: no actual string quartets, JUST the piano material. (Even more peculiar, a live Juilliard Library of Congress Schumann set shows up.) Seriously? “What kind of MONSTER puts artisanal butter in the FREEZER,” as Erlich Bachmeister says. Sure, we’ll lease spotify the rights to stream the Schumann PIANO chamber works, but when it comes to those Opus 41s, somebody’s gonna have to PONY UP BIG.
Lucky for us, Youtube fills such patches, and a new favorite ensemble, the Quatuor Ebéne, plays the 41/3 more exquisitely than I remember even Melos doing: