WORKS: String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59/2 (Razumovsky). Clarinet Quintet in A, K581
PERFORMER: SŠkampa Quartet; Ronald van Spaendonck (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3313-2
A few years after Maelzel invented his metronome, in 1813, Beethoven issued markings for some of his earlier works, including all the string quartets he had composed thus far. They seem impossibly fast, but every so often a performance comes along that attempts to keep faith with them. The SŠkampa Quartet’s thought-provoking view of the second Razumovsky, with all movements except the finale much quicker than usual, seems to be doing just that. The driving energy of the first movement, with every nuance
of Beethoven’s intricate dynamic indications meticulously observed,
and both repeats taken, is highly convincing. However, the slow movement is another matter. Beethoven apparently wrote it while contemplating the starry sky, and thinking of the music of the spheres; and both the tempo heading of Molto adagio and the additional note instructing the players to treat the piece ‘with much feeling’ are curiously at variance with the metronome marking. Certainly, as played here,
the music lacks both expansiveness and serenity.
Serenity is in short supply in Mozart’s autumnal Clarinet Quintet, too. The flow of the wonderful slow movement (again rather fast) is disrupted by too many downbeat accents, and the gentle variation finale is too impatient by far. Misha Donat