String Quartets: Brahms • Haydn
Haydn’s Lark Quartet owes its nickname to the manner in which the first violin makes its initial entry, soaring high above the remaining instruments. The leader of the Danish String Quartet adds ‘chirping’ trills to the tune’s repeated-note upbeat when it comes round for the second time – a harmless enough joke, though it’s a curious idea to want to make the music fit what is after all a fairly meaningless title. That easy-going main subject is counterbalanced by a dissonant passage in taut syncopation, and here the players could perhaps have made more of the music’s drama. In all other respects, however, this is a fine performance, with an exhilarating account of the scurrying moto perpetuo finale.
Haydn’s finale is a piece that goes by in a flash, making the Lark one of the briefest among all his great string quartets; and since in addition the Danish String Quartet opts to bypass the repeat in the opening movement of the Brahms A minor Quartet (a non-essential repeat, in all conscience, though one that many ensembles do observe), it’s hard not to be aware of the disc’s short running time, and of the fact that there would have been ample room to throw in a further work. Still, the Brahms impresses by its warmth and Romantic ardour, and the quality of the recording does the playing full justice.