Gramophone's Chamber Award 2023

Mozart String Quintets – No 3, K515; No 4, K516

Ébène Quartet with Antoine Tamestit va


Having featured prominently in last year’s Awards with ‘’Round Midnight’, a contemporary concept album twinning Dutilleux with Schoenberg, the Ébène Quartet once again enlists the help of viola player Antoine Tamestit for its latest stunner – only outwardly traditional. These players prefer enquiry and renewal to the default settings of effortless euphoniousness in K515 and one-dimensional melancholy in K516. Inhabiting an ecosystem in which the application of vibrato (or its absence) is determined by emotional necessity, every voice is at once perfectly matched yet rich in possibility, almost as if hinting at harmonic roads not taken. No one fills in or merely chugs along. And we’ve a front-row seat from which to savour the variety of articulation and the extended dynamic range. Intakes of breath are sometimes audible, never disruptive. The overall sonority is luminous, intonation beyond reproach.

‘This is music-making of and for our own time, Mozart emerging freshly minted in reappraisals that should leave no one indifferent’

Fine polish notwithstanding, nothing is quite what it seems. Perhaps the more transformative of the two performances is that of K515, its brighter sweetness never taken for granted. This music is given a complex inner life; its minuet is veiled, wholly mysterious. Both quintets’ slow movements proceed with unfashionable deliberation, heart-stopping moments bagged with patient sensitivity. The searching K516 in G minor has long been recognised as among Mozart’s most personal utterances and a work of ‘high drama’, as cellist Raphaël Merlin remarks. Here again, though, tempos are generally unhurried, climaxing in the extraordinary numbed anguish of the finale’s slow introduction. Repeats bring subtle shifts of tone rather than a sense of unchanging ritual. This is music-making of and for our own time, Mozart emerging freshly minted in reappraisals that should leave no one indifferent. David Gutman

Read the original Gramophone Review

Recording categories




Concept Album


Early Music



Orchestral & Recording of the Year



Spatial Audio

Voice & Ensemble

Special Awards

Lifetime Achievement

Label of the Year

Young Artist of the Year

Artist of the Year

Orchestra of the Year

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