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SCHUBERT // Rosamunde Der Tod und das Mädchen

Quatuor Hermès,

At the gates of night and deliverance

By turns symphonic in dimensions and intimately lyrical, grippingly dark and gently enveloping, these two monuments of chamber music reveal the two faces of Schubert.


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At the end of 1822, Schubert learnt that he had contracted a venereal disease. His hopes were ‘dashed’, friendship and love became ‘torture’. He threw all his energy into his work and embarked on the most profound portion of his oeuvre. This was the period of the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, followed in 1824 by the ‘Rosamunde’ Quartet, the Arpeggione Sonata and the ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet. He left more and more works unfinished, but everything he did complete now took on a new dimension. His quartets are no longer for ‘accompanied first violin’: they gain in expressiveness, power and symphonic richness.

The String Quartet No. 13 in A minor D804, ‘Rosamunde’, was the only one printed and performed in public during Schubert’s lifetime. It is a work uttered in a murmur, with its tremolos, its unison melodies, its modulations. This string quartet is deeply touching in its confidences devoid of vehemence or drama. A nocturnal hymn to yearning, it is fragile and should be performed neither too desolately nor too lightly, always playing on the ambiguity between dewdrops and tears.

Schubert’s music is neither happy nor sad, but simply fraternal.

The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor D810, ‘Death and the Maiden’, is a work dictated by despair. Schubert concurs with Mozart’s remark that death is humanity’s best friend. He composed his quartet in D minor, the key of the Mozart Requiem.
The highly dramatic first movement is a struggle for life. In the second movement, Death is accepted. The drama returns in the third movement, now tinged with irony. And the work ends with a Dance of Death, a Presto in the form of a tarantella (the Italian dance invented to cure the bite of the tarantula).

The final chord affirms D minor. There is no doubt about the tragic outcome . . .


String Quartet no.13 in A minor D804, ‘Rosamunde’


  • Allegro ma non troppo 13’31
  • Andante 6’53
  • Menuetto. Allegretto 7’13
  • Allegro moderato 7’06


String Quartet no.14 in D minor D810, ‘Death and the Maiden’


  • Allegro 11’23
  • Andante con moto 13’14
  • Scherzo, allegro molto 3’52
  • Presto 9’19

The Talich Quartet, a Bohemian soul


‘The Conservatory of Europe’ – that used to be the nickname of Bohemia. At the heart of central Europe, a people dedicated itself wholly to the art of melody. In the nineteenth century, when Czech musicians were recognised as great composers as well as performers, they gave birth to a repertory steeped in traditions, its inspiration passed on from generation to generation.


Václav Talich, a conductor of genius, was one of the most prominent central European artists in the following century. In 1964, Talich’s nephew Jan founded the string quartet that bears his name. In 1975 it became a chamber ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic, a distinction that quickly gained it international recognition. France became its second home, and thanks to the Calliope label it made some of the great benchmark recordings in the quartet discography, from Mozart to Janáček. La Dolce Volta has since taken up the torch and pursues an adventure too exciting to be interrupted.


For half a century now, even though the bows have changed hands, the quartet’s personality has displayed marked stylistic continuity: spontaneous expressiveness, delicious unpredictability of attack, telling accentuation of folk rhythms, absolute precision and, equally, a sensation of miraculous fragility. Throughout the years, the Talich Quartet has remained the ambassador of a prodigious musical history, nourished by the memory of the torrents and castles of Bohemia, of tales and legends, and of the passions of the Czech people even before it was established as a nation in the aftermath of the First World War. The quartet’s multi-award-winning recordings mirror their interpretation of Janáček’s Second Quartet, ‘Intimate Letters’: the most enchanting of conversations in music.

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