My own choice for the Haydn Quartets are the recordings of the Quatuour Mosaïques on period instruments. They of course didn´t record the complete cycle, but those that they did record are above anything else. Start with the Op.20 and Op. 76, they are exquisite.
You're quite right, Jose. The Quatuor Mosaiques is the best choice in performances of Haydn with "period" instruments (though the Festetics in Arcana are almost equally good).
However, I still prefer the triple presentation of Haydn's String Quartets on Praga with Kocian, Parkanyi and the Prazak Quartets. You may try them. They are sure winners, in superb recordings.
While Haydn remain one of my favourite composers I tend to agree with Bosco regarding the feeling of transcendance in Mozart's music. Haydn can be sublimely spiritual, as the final 6 masses or the 7 Last Words reveal. However, in Mozart one always has the feeling that there is an inner more melancholic story coming out, inbetween the lines. I acquired all Sandor Vegh's recordings of the Divertimenti, Cassations with the Camerata Academica, and though Mozart in this music is often accused of 'note spinning' I hear nothing of the like. Mozart always convey the idea of a deeply felt, personal story, often an inner sadness, even in music which is written for joy only, such as Kleine Nachtmusik or the last contredances.
I would second [or third] the recommendation of the Quatuour Mosaïques, I also enjoy the Lindsays. I have also recently acquired several discs by the Auryn Quartet, which are new recordings and I think very fine indeed. I think it's a lot of fun to buy them individually comparing and contrasting as one progresses. I've been exploring recordings of these string quartets for the past 6 years and only just scratched the surface. I'd start with the Opus 17 and very quickly move on to the Opus 20. The Op 17 are not typical but I think contextualise the develpoment in the Op 20 set, After that where to go? there are over 80! Perhaps the last two [and a fragment] to see where Haydn ended up. By then you'd have an idea of their qualities. Another approach might be to go through them choronolgically.
If you are really interested in this genre of the String Quartet, you should opt for the chronological listening of the works, so that you may truly appreciate the development of this so important form of composition in Classical Music.
Op. 20 is a milestone in the series (the one in C major as well as the two in the minor mode are unique in their beauty, innovation and development of the genre) and the following op.33. However, it's amazing that there is practically not a single Quartet to discard. Op. 74 and 76 as well as the last three (op.77 and the unfinished one) are the crowining masterpieces of them all.
Indulge in them and enjoy the numerous findings of a musical treasure,
Parla, any suggestions for a recording of the set of Op.20. They are rather thin on the ground. I'm not fond of original instruments (and the style that goes with them) in these works.
Try the Pellegrini Quartet on CPO, Chris.
It's a very good SACD recording which gives a fully detailed performance of these very special String Quartets. The second movement of the C major Quartet for example is given in extremely unique and powerful way (a magnificent Fantasia). The first movement of the E flat is also given in full drive and detail. The two minor mode ones (f and g minor) are very well performed, while the other two, the glorious one in D and the quiet but radiant one in A are also well served.
Thanks Parla! I will indeed try it.
Have a safe journey home!
Thank you Parla for the recommedation of the Pellegrini Quartet I have ordered it to compare to the Auryn and Mosaiques that I own
I've listened to the Pellegrini op 20 set a few times now. I don't have an SACD player so my comments pertiain to my equipment and might not hold true for others. The Pellegrini sound is clear, gentle, and as rule somewhat restrained. I find the Auryn [on Tacet] more dynamic and with a little more punch and swing, also with an exceptionally clear sound. The Mosaiques are even more punchy very vibrant and quite exciting, even though the string sound is softer they are a little more agressive. All three are excellent recordings. If one was forced into choosing only one, or preferred to own only one, I think it would be a matter of personal preferrence.
SJ, I agree with your views on the versions you mentioned, except for the Ayrun (on Tacet), which I haven't yet got. I have some more too, maybe less distinctive.
Because I have a SACD unit, a high-end one (Krell EV-505), the Pellegrini sounds with more space, ambience, while the dynamics are clearer, even if they don't play so aggressively. However, the bottom line is that between such great ensembles, the choice is more personal than ever, while, if you can afford to have more, much better for the overall view of such wonderful and pivotal works.
I'm eagerly awaiting when Praga is going to record them with one of the four great String Quartets it employs. The recent "Seven Last Words" of Haydn with the Prazak was miraculous.
I'm still awaiting the arrival of my Pellegrini Op.20 (and also for the Prazak Schubert Quintet). In the meantime I noticed a newish recording (on Onyx) of the Op.33 set with the 'new' Borodin Quartet. Have either of you heard this, Parla or SJ (Or indeed anyone else!). I once had the Weller quartet's lps but they seem to not be around on CD.
And Parla; is it hope or expectation that the Prazak are about to record more Haydn?
It's more expectation than hope, Chris. However, I'm not sure if there will be the Prazak or the Parkanyi or the Kocian or the Zemlinsky Quartet.
So far, the Zemlinsky (the newest of them all) has not recorded any set of Haydn's Quartets. Kocian, which is the oldest of the four, has undertaken op. 74 (superb interpretation) and the op. 77 (wonderful too). The Parkanyi (an excellent ensemble) has embarked on op.33 (which I recommend very strongly) and the op. 54 (very good too). The Prazak (the flagship of the label) has recorded the very important op.76, the underrated op. 50 and the "Seven Last Words", their latest sublime achievement. My suggestion is to collect all of them, slowly and gradually. They are all top class performances and brilliant recordings.
So, I believe one or some of them have to record the very significant op. 20 and the rather underrated op. 64.
I'd be very interested to hear your view on the Auryn when you acquire it Parla, I think they might offer SACD versions of some of their Haydn recordings which might be off interest to you.
Chris, I haven't heard the new Borodin's will investigate. I don't think that the Mosaique's op 33 is quite in the same class a their 20.
Parka, it might be DVDS not SACS for the hi def Auryn. My CD player is a Naim CDS 3 so ordinary CDs sound quite good but I can't help wonder if I'm missing anything without hi def. SJ