Berg; Mendelssohn

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COMPOSERS: Berg; Mendelssohn
LABELS: Avi Music
WORKS: Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13; Berg: Lyric Suite
PERFORMER: Tetzlaff Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: AVI 8553266

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Minor keys often brought out the best in Mendelssohn, and the passionate outbursts in the first movement of this A minor Quartet have an intensity matched by the players and by the recording’s immediate sound. There’s subtlety in the rubato and tonal variety, and the blend of the instruments is exact while allowing four distinct but complementary personalities to emerge. The slow movement, which could become sentimental, has a stern backbone, and the Intermezzo contrasts poise and fleetness of foot. Mendelssohn’s fascination with the late quartets of Beethoven reaches its height in the twists and turns of the finale, finally reaching resolution in a return of the music from the opening of the Quartet, beautifully achieved here.

There’s no such closure in Berg’s Lyric Suite, whose six movements gradually become more despairing, and need utter technical confidence to define the precise emotional trajectory described by Berg’s qualifications of his tempo markings: giovale; amoroso; misterioso; estatico; appassionato; delirando; tenebroso and desolato. That assurance and engagement are fully evident here, and it’s not just in the response to the variety of tone and timbre asked for, but in the care over intonation – always a potential problem in non-tonal music – and once more in the sense of flow, as rhythms morph between the regular and the elusive. The Tetzlaff Quartet find the strength of the underlying pulse within the music, and draw all the threads of this most beautiful work together.

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Martin Cotton