Mendelssohn Complete String Quartets, Vol 1

Finely judged idiomatic playing gets this new Mendelssohn quartet cycle off to a good start

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Mendelssohn Complete String Quartets, Vol 1

  • String Quartet No. 2
  • String Quartet No. 1

These fruits of Mendelssohn’s precocious maturity demand a fresh‚ enthusiastic response‚ and the Leipzig Quartet don’t disappoint. In passionate‚ intense pieces like the outer movements of Op 13 and the finale of Op 12‚ their urgency and strong sense of direction are more than enough to change the mind of anyone who thinks of Mendelssohn as a decorous‚ rather conventional figure. Yet the Leipzigers don’t give one­sided performances; all the composer’s characteristic expression marks – tranquillo‚ con fuoco‚ dolce espressivo as well as agitato – receive proper consideration.
The Mosaïques Quartet’s period­instrument accounts of these works are notable for their limpid tonal qualities and for the ‘speaking’‚ rhetorical style of expression‚ particularly memorable in the recitative passages that are such a feature of Op 13. By their side‚ the Leipzig sound is less striking (though notably rich and well blended)‚ their expression more traditional and sustained. But they are‚ I think‚ better at conveying the full range of Mendelssohn’s imagination. The excellent liner­notes by Irmlind Capelle point out the extraordinary way the 18­year­old composer was able to absorb so many features of the then brand­new late Beethoven quartets whilst producing music of very different overall character. The elegiac effect of the first movement of the A minor Quartet‚ as played by the Mosaïques‚ is appealing‚ but the youthful impetuosity of the Leipzig’s is surely nearer the mark.
With fine‚ natural recorded sound and playing of such quality‚ this promises to be a distinguished Mendelssohn series.

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