Haydn: String Quartets: in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5; in C, Op.33, No. 3 (The Bird); in D, Op.76, No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: String Quartets: in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5; in C, Op.33, No. 3 (The Bird); in D, Op.76, No. 5
PERFORMER: Jerusalem Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: HMX 2962030

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The Jerusalem Quartet’s second recording of Haydn Quartets is an absolute triumph.

Their playing has everything you could possibly wish for. Miraculously honed intonation and perfect ensemble is matched throughout by an innate understanding of Haydn’s mercurial and immensely varied musical language. A veiled sense of melancholy hangs over the opening movement of the F minor Quartet, the interpretation emphasising its sombre nature and its unexpectedly adventurous modulations. The fugal Finale, on the other hand, is all nervous energy, articulated with tremendous rhythmic verve.

There’s also plenty of vigour in the outer movements of the Bird Quartet, the mellifluous first violin line in the opening Allegro moderato accompanied by chirpy repeated quavers. Although the Presto finale, taken at a daringly fast pace, might seem almost too hectic, the players nonetheless manage to convey the music’s skittish humour while delivering the running semiquaver passages with dazzling precision. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, the second movement Allegretto balances simplicity with wonderful charm in the trio.

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The emotional epicentre of their performance of the Op. 76 No. 5 Quartet is the Largo. Projected here with great tenderness and warmth, it provides a perfect contrast to the elegance of the opening movement, the teasing rhythmic ambiguities of the minuet and the bravura of the Finale. Recorded in superb sound, this has to be one of the best Haydn quartet recording to be released in his anniversary year. Erik Levi