Mozart - String Quartets K428, 465 & 387
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMC902186
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 25th August 2014
WorksString Quartet no.14 in G major, K387
String Quartet no.16 in E flat major, K428
String Quartet no.19 in C major, K465 'Dissonance'
When he dedicated a set of six quartets to Haydn in 1785, Mozart was acknowledging the latter's supremacy in this genre. However, Mozart did more than just imitate him - he integrated Haydn's innovations into his own style, thereby producing a new milestone of Viennese Classicism.
The three quartets played here by Cuarteto Casals are among Mozart's finest and are truly masterpieces of the genre.
The Europadisc Review
Earlier this year we found much to admire in the Cuarteto Casals' recording of Haydn's Seven Last Words from the Cross. Now they're back with a new recording of works directly inspired by the same composer: three of Mozart's six quartets dedicated to Haydn. Mozart described these sublime quartets as 'the fruit of long and laborious study', and in them he went beyond even what the older master had achieved in pushing the expressive and technical bounds of the medium. Little wonder that Haydn acclaimed Mozart as 'the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name'.
The playing throughout this new disc is immensely stylish, and the tonal refinement is immaculate. The Cuarteto Casals has clearly taken on board the lessons of period performance, for they know exactly when to ease off the vibrato so that every strand of the texture is crystal clear. At the same time these are tremendously spirited accounts, contemporary in feel yet also utterly timeless and more than worthy of comparison with the greatest performances of the past.
In the first two movements of the G major Quartet, K387, Mozart makes plentiful use of the interplay between forte and piano dynamics. Here the Cuarteto Casals treat that interplay as one of shading in the opening movement, saving the bolder contrasts for the following Menuetto. The Andante cantabile third movement is sumptuously flexible, with a captivatingly mysterious middle section, while the finale emerges from its quiet fugal opening to become as engagingly light-hearted as one could wish.
The players clearly enjoy themselves in the E flat Quartet, K428: just listen to the way they sink into the glorious forte restatement of the first movement's opening theme. In the Andante they take the con moto marking with a pinch of salt, allowing Mozart's harmonies time to flower amid the light and shade. The Menuetto is splendidly buoyant and light of touch, the Trio contrastingly reflective, its unison passages perfectly tuned. In the concluding Allegro vivace, the music is kept on its toes, the inner parts commendably clear, and the wittily placed silent pauses judged to perfection.
The disc is crowned with a superb account of the 'Dissonance' Quartet, K465, with every player showing their mettle. From the dark foreboding of the famous slow introduction emerges a mighty yet sparkling performance of the first movement, the performers unafraid to open out the tone in the grander sections. There's a rich autumnal glow to the Andante cantabile, while the dynamics contrasts in the Menuetto are deliciously pointed, and the Trio bristles with minor-key urgency. In the closing Allegro (the most expansive finale of the three) Mozart comes closest to making a direct nod in Haydn's direction, and this account positively bubbles along with good humour right up to its joyous conclusion.
Exposition repeats are observed throughout, but not the second-half ones, thus enabling Harmonia Mundi to squeeze three quartets onto the disc, with a generous running time of just over 82 minutes. The recording is ideally balanced with just the right degree of warmth, and there's a thoughtful booklet note by Andreas Friesenhagen. Let's hope we can look forward to the other three works of this set soon!
1String Quartet no.14 - I. Allegro vivace assai
2String Quartet no.14 - II. Menuetto
3String Quartet no.14 - III. Andante cantabile
4String Quartet no.14 - IV. Molto allegro
5String Quartet no.16 - I. Allegro non troppo
6String Quartet no.16 - II. Andante con moto
7String Quartet no.16 - III. Menuetto
8String Quartet no.16 - IV. Allegro vivace
9String Quartet no.19 - I. Adagio - Allegro
10String Quartet no.19 - II. Andante cantabile
11String Quartet no.19 - III. Menuetto
12String Quartet no.19 - IV. Allegro molto
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