Hagen Quartet Performs Schubert

Hagen plays Schubert

The Hagen String quartet is one of my favorite chamber groups. It was formed many years ago by 3 Austrian siblings: The first violinist, Lucas Hagen; the cello player, Clemens Hagen; and the amazing violist, Veronika Hagen.

Unfortunately they do not perform all that often in the US, or I would rush to see them… From my point of view, this group is unique in the balanced sound they produce, and in the strong musical way in which they perform the great works of chamber music

On this DVD, released this year, we see 2 performances that were recorded several years apart. It provides a view of how the quartet has changed, not only in its playing, but also in its members. The Schubert quartet was recorded in 1987.

The interpretation is very satisfying, particularly the second movement which is a chamber music adaptation by Schubert of his song by the same title. For me, however, the video shows us the quartet performing in an ornate library, and all the images are seen from quite a distance, which reduces the potential intimacy of the setting. Still the musical interpretation is excellent.

The Ravel Quartet was recorded at the “Grosser Saal” (Great Hall) of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, a much plainer but still gorgeous venue. You’ll notice that the second violin part is played in this case by Rainer Schmidt. The Quartet’s playing of the Ravel is a combination of classical clarity and impressionistic suggestion. It is amazing to note that Ravel wrote this quartet while he was still a student at the Paris Conservatory of Music.

After the strong opening movement, the second movement is played pizzicato (Strings lucked, rather than played with the bow). This produces a unique sound which gives the piece a special character. This is a terrific performance by the Hagen Quartet; one that you will enjoy, as well.

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