Selected Press Quotes listed by date
"Their approach to Martinů's Piano Quintet no. 2 was spot on. A sense of rhythmic urgency and accuracy was evident from the start of the propulsive opening Poco allegro. Above all there was a strong sense of their understanding of the musical and human pulse of the work, enabling them to shape their performance into a truly satisfying whole...Dvořák's Piano Quintet in A major was given the same high-quality treatment by the ensemble, so much so that you could be forgiven for concluding that this must be the supreme masterwork in this form, with such originality and aptness in the orchestration, thematic material that cannot be matched and a complexity and depth of mood that Brahms surely would have envied. The first movement was played with such passion that there was no room for comfortable folksiness that can sometimes reduce the levels of intensity in performances...A standing ovation greeted this exceptional piece of music making." (five stars) Bachtrack November 2017
“The first notes tell you that you are listening to a class act…there’s complete unanimity of intent. Intonation is precise, rubato absolutely co-ordinated, vibrato carefully graded, and the texture immaculately balanced, the result of both works having been in the Ensemble’s repertoire for a long time.” (double five star review of Saint-Saens/Chausson recording) BBC Music Magazine December 2016
“The performances of both are, as you would expect from an ensemble that has had these works in its repertoire for many years, as fine in their attention to detail as is their structural grasp and stylistic assurance. If it is this pairing that attracts you, then there is no competition.” (Saint-Saens/Chausson recording) Gramophone November 2016
“…chamber music by Louise Farrenc and Schumann was beautifully articulated … [a] finely developed sense of ensemble…” – Guardian, June 2016
“Next came Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat major which, in this lively performance, seemed as fresh as the more famous Piano Quintet…The Schubert Ensemble was very assured here with an uncanny sense of communication between the players, creating a wonderful dialogue and natural balance that demonstrated Schumann’s skilful part writing and melodic fecundity to a tee…an exceptional evening.” – Bachtrack, November 2015
“The fullness of sound produced by the Schubert Ensemble is always arresting. The warmth and clarity of the acoustic only partly explains the full-colour intensity. The rest comes from an equal balance of individual musical voices…While some ensembles calcify over time, there is spontaneity and ease in the Schubert Ensemble’s playing. No matter how complex, fragmented or feverish the score, no matter how wayward the strings in humid weather, the closing chords of each movement are perfectly shaped and perfectly unanimous…In Schumann’s own Piano Quintet, the first to be written, the phrases sprang off the page, tinted with Schubertian melancholy in the marcia, and infused with Beethovenian elation in the scherzo.” – The Times, July 2015
“The sheer precision of the ensemble and the unanimity of the tone provided the musical discipline against which the, often daring, rubato of the melodies could interact…The Dvořák Second Quartet is, no doubt, core repertoire for these performers, but I’m sure the Brahms Quintet is even more familiar to them. No matter how many times they have performed it together, though, this evening it sounded as fresh and vibrant as ever. Technically, this performance was as close to flawless as any, but what stood out more was the sheer variety of colours, textures and moods. Dance rhythms were launched enthusiastically and sustained without flagging. Melodies sang and bass lines bounced. Best of all were the ecstatic tutti passages in the outer movements, where the five instruments all combine to perform opulent major-key melodies, the voicing arranged to create an effect of radiant intensity, brilliantly executed by the ensemble here. Perfect Brahms.” – Bachtrack, October 2014.
"A superb performance [of Enescu's Piano Quintet], alive to the music's every nuance." – BBC Music Magazine, 2013.
“Violas are usually such shy creatures … That wasn’t the case with the viola used in the Schubert Ensemble’s concert at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival  … Douglas Patterson’s instrument suddenly exploded. The tailpiece flew off noisily on to the floor and the strings curled up, all because the tailgut used to attach the tailpiece had snapped under extreme tension … was there another viola in the house? No. But there was another viola player, who dashed home, dashed back with his instrument and heroically saved the day.” – The Times, June 2012.
“Every so often there are moments of clarity, which were given a wonderfully fresh and lifting air. By contrast, the ensemble was also able to achieve a staggering level of intensity sometimes built around just one note”. – The Music OMH, March 2011.
“The Schubert Ensemble is one of those aggregations that can contract or expand according to the needs of the moment … It’s an elusive work [Enescu’s Piano Quartet], but the Schubert Ensemble were persuasive advocates.” – The London Evening Standard, March 2011.
“The Schubert Ensemble are blessed with the most natural, unforced, singing tone – strings and piano alike.” – The Independent on Sunday, February 2011.
“The performance marries steadiness of tempo with a brightness of tone and ebullience of feeling for the music’s surging lines, held together by tight ensemble coordination.” – Comments on Culture, February 2011.
“To say they play with seasoned eloquence, a unanimity born of deep communal consideration, is an understatement, for they demand superlatives.” – The Sunday Times, February 2011.
“Despite the unfamiliar music, the ensemble playing and individual skills of the players were immediately apparent.” – The John O’Groat Journal, April 2010.
“It worked brilliantly … Individual talent and mutual understanding developed over 27 years go some way to explaining that … The audience wanted more. But there was no more to say. Remarkable.” – The Yorkshire Post, February 2010.
“…radiant, muscular playing, with richness born of uncanny unanimity of ensemble intonation, and an easy, intoxicating way with a melody.” – The Strad, February 2010.
“The playing was beautifully evocative and captivating, vigorous where need be but essentially gossamer.” – The Strad, August 2009.
“The Brahms Quintet, meanwhile, has become one of the Ensemble’s calling cards. They are exceptionally fine at negotiating its innate paradoxes, so we are conscious throughout of the alignment of an epic breadth of feeling with a restrained intimacy of expression." – The Guardian, June 2009.
“Nothing beats a bit of Schubert in the morning … A solitary movement for string trio, dating from Schubert’s teenage years, was a delightful curtain-raiser to the Trout Quintet, whose sparkling, clean textures were at times truly spine-tingling in their immediacy. The balance, clarity and tone were perfectly realised … outstanding in every respect.” – The Guardian, October 2008.
“There’s no denying that The Schubert Ensemble has carved a secure niche for itself in this area of music, and with performances as well-groomed and incisive as this, it puts composers and audiences in its debt.” – The Daily Telegraph, March 2008.
“Steering well clear of schmaltz, the Schubert Ensemble once again delivered a perceptive, finely judged and enjoyable performance featuring a particularly tender dialogue between the violin and cello.” – The Scotsman, March 2007.
“It’s typical of the Schuberts to take a holistic interest in their composers. They are curious about our wider ideas beyond the scores we produce.” – Piers Hellawell in Classical Music Magazine, October 2006.
“The players weren’t afraid to show their evident enjoyment of the work [Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet No.2] – smiles all round – and they gave a performance so forthright and passionate that at times it sounded as though a chamber orchestra were playing. A hugely impressive concert.” – The Strad, May 2006.
“The Ensemble played in perfect unity, as though incapable of falling out of sync with one another. The music is demanding of the players, certainly; yet for the audience, it was a soothing selection.” – Peterborough Examiner, February 2005.
"At the end, where the music rises to an orchestral exuberance, the performers swept us along irresistibly with that same combination of reckless abandon and perfect control.” – The Daily Telegraph, July 2003.
" ...an account that combined passion, refinement and, in the slow movement, sheer desolation with impeccable control" – The Independent on Sunday, July 2003.
“Few groups have done more to promote new music than the Schubert Ensemble. Over two decades since they were founded (they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year), they have added more than 30 new pieces to the repertoire, and that’s not counting no fewer than 50 pieces commissioned for their chamber music 2000 project.” – Evening Standard, July 2003.
“The music that was on offer breathed its own life, but the Schubert Ensemble courted it in the most loving way so that its transmission enveloped the listener in many magical and often mystical ways. Congratulations all round!" – Musical Opinion, June 2003.
“But for [the Schubert Ensemble’s] official birthday concert at the Purcell Room, it put together a whole concert of [commissions], six of them, all composed within the last couple of years and played with the group’s customary zest and polish.” – The Daily Telegraph, February 2003.
"...The Schubert Ensemble of London are a marvellously unified ensemble, imparting their energy and lyricism to anything to which they turn their expert hands..." – Classic FM Magazine.
"…The performances by The Schubert Ensemble are exactly what the music requires – they fizzle with energy and pep." – Fanfare USA.
“In the music of Brahms himself, the Schubert Ensemble was very good indeed. This is just the sort of music in which the Ensemble has rightly earned its reputation, and the Piano Quintet Op.34 tested and testified to its strengths… While they preserved the work’s essential chamber-music intimacy, they also communicated its broad expressive scope and grand architectural plan…arriving at a reading that was rich in colour and forceful in its passionate drive.” – The Daily Telegraph, March 2002.
“The players performed with rare distinction, both individually and collectively, dashing off a bristling close to the gypsy-influenced finale [Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor]”. – The Strad September 2002.
“[About Chausson’s Piano Quartet] Rarely is one’s first live encounter with a piece of music of such an exalted standard. From the work’s declamatory opening to its sonorous close, the Schubert Ensemble never put a foot wrong: their familiar (from their previous visit) virtues of stunning precision and ensemble were present and correct, but the Chausson gave them an opportunity to show just what an enormous range of tone colours and sonorities they can produce.” – Victoria Times, Canada, October 2002.
"…to hear the splendid Schubert Ensemble of London was to realize what a full-time piano/strings ensemble can do ... the ensemble displayed a nearly supernatural degree of polish" – Los Angeles Times, January 2001.
“The Schubert Ensemble of London is one of the finest groups to be heard regularly on the chamber music circuit and the present line up is as good as they’ve ever been…No one overdoes their solo spot, and it is team interaction which sets the style and gives continual satisfaction.” – Seen And Heard, January 2001.
“Yet it was the unanimity and imagination of the ensemble that was chiefly responsible for the splendid success of [Mahler’s Piano Quartet Movement in A Minor] and the rest of the program. [Judith Weir’s Blanche comme la neige] might not have made a strong as an impression as it did had the Schubert Ensemble’s playing not been of such a high order.” – The Ottawa Citizen, October 2000.
“The musicians played [the Gypsy Rondo of the Brahms G minor Piano Quartet] like demons, bow-hair flying, winning themselves a big cheer and an instant encore.” – London Evening Standard, February 2000.
“Superb playing…nothing was left to chance in their performances, the most passionate sections retaining a cool head to ensure an impeccable rhythmic unity….It was a concert that you wished would never end.” – Yorkshire Post, July 1999.
“The players rode its [Fauré’s Quartet in G Minor] volatile rhythmic tides with passionate grace, balanced in sound and independent in expressive nuance.” – Los Angeles Times, January 1999.
“The Schubert Ensemble gave one of the finest performances of chamber music that Norwich can have heard in years…This was immaculate playing which had the sparkle and vitality of artists who really seem to be enjoying themselves.” – Eastern Daily Press, October 1998.
“As part of its 15th anniversary celebrations the Schubert Ensemble presented this programme of piano quartet and piano quintet commissions in which the striking feature was the sheer variety of texture and tone colour…All these demanding works were carried off with virtuosic aplomb by the Schubert Ensemble, whose unmistakable pride in acting as a catalyst for these fine additions to the chamber music repertoire was fully justified.” – The Strad, July 1998.
“Apart from having increasing acclaim for their performances of standard repertoire, the group has enterprisingly raised funds to commission works from many leading contemporary British composers” – Classic CD, March 1998.
“The Schubert Ensemble must have a knack of making every piece seem like a new discovery, for they managed it with each item in their programme…The [Brahms] Piano Quartet No.2 in A Op.26 was a great experience, full of brilliant and powerful playing, very finely conceived and gloriously executed.” – Manchester Evening News, January 1997.
“Always combining a repertoire that slyly blends the old and the new, with some piece from the darkest annals of the tradition thrown in, the Schubert Ensemble have come to establish a reputation for stylish, independent and highly individualistic readings…If the Schubert Ensemble of London with players the likes of William Howard are anything to go by, the classical music establishment can assure themselves of a healthy, eccentric and very hopeful future lying ahead of them.” – Kuala Lumpur Star, December 1995.
“The Schubert is an outstanding Ensemble, stylish and sensitive, never giving to the music more emotional weight than it could reasonably bear….In the Schubert Ensemble’s account of Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor, classical severity was tempered by a radiant beauty and some impassioned climaxes.” – Yorkshire Post, October 1995.
“…a particularly satisfying and imaginative programme…It was a treat to hear a new work [David Matthews A Song and Dance Sketchbook] so well written and beautifully executed here by the Schubert Ensemble.” – The Strad, May 1995.
“The Schubert Ensemble’s performance of Smetana’s G minor Piano Trio was as idiomatic and perceptive as any one is likely to hear.” – The Independent, May 1995.
“They are a very cohesive group, for the most part extremely polished and VERY together…The group played Schubert’s Trout Quintet in an exceptionally interesting version…Different. And mostly effective, with some superb, amiable playing.” – Glasgow Herald, October 1994.
“The long and intriguing programme ended with a glorious account of Brahms’s G minor Piano Quartet, which was, at times, as meaty and decisive as anything plotted by Schoenberg in his orchestration, yet also included playing of Schubertian grace and polish.” – The Strad, May 1994.
“The Schuberts are a skilful bunch – real grown-up musicians with a fantastic sense of performance. If the Hummel [Quintet] sparkled, their E flat Dvořák [Quartet] – riot of Czechoslovak charm – fairly glinted with riches.” – The Scotsman, March 1993.
“They gave a truly fine and warm performance, projecting with ease their own delight in their music making to their very appreciative audience.” – Malta Times, November 1992.
“The Schubert Ensemble of London provided an evening of accomplished and pleasurable music-making…In Brahms’ Piano Quartet [in G minor] the group produced a great variety of contrast both in dynamics and colour, and when necessary filled the auditorium with a sound of almost orchestral richness…the evening was on the whole one of the most satisfying I have attended.” – The Irish Times, October 1990.
“Perfection, nothing less…There is no doubt in my mind that this visit by the Schubert Ensemble of London has been the most significant event of the year in the (Western) classical music programme of Kuala Lumpur. They are a monumentally talented group, whose talent, happily, does not prevent them from being accessible to everyone in their audience.” – The Malay Mail, December 1989.
“The Schubert Ensemble of London is but five years old, but plays with a oneness and maturity usually associated with ensembles more than twice as old.” – The Sunday Star, Malaysia, December 1989.
“I doubt whether Fauré could have intended more for his second Piano Quartet than the Ensemble gave him….It had a magnificent reading from the Ensemble: stylish, technically alert, but big with the conviction that this is music of substance.” – The Independent, July 1989.
“The Ensemble gave a delightful performance of the piece [Trout Quintet] in the best tradition of chamber music making, warm, affectionate and intimate.” – Glasgow Herald, May 1989.
“The team has achieved a remarkable unanimity in a short time and each member contributed warm and full tone. There was technical brilliance too in the Rondo finale of the Hummel [Quintet] and in the variations of the Schubert [Trout Quintet]. Both slow movements, taken at unhurried speeds, benefitted in blend from the fine balance of the instruments.” – Daily Telegraph, June 1984.
“The Schubert Ensemble…gave delightfully poised and authentic performances of chamber music by Schumann, Hummel and Schubert himself in the Wigmore Hall…Triptych [by Colin Matthews] was played with vitality and commitment and appreciation of its expert understanding of string/piano texture.” – Observer Review, June 1984.
“…a memorably beautiful account of Schumann’s Piano Quartet Op.47.” – The Sunday Times, June 1984.