LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13; String Quartet in E flat, Op. 12
PERFORMER: Leipzig String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 1055-2
The Leipzig, one of the most consistently impressive of the leading younger string quartets, adds to its discography this first volume of a complete Mendelssohn quartet series. The disc displays to admiration the players’ unforced musicianship and strong but unshowy responsiveness to the demands of musical argument.
These miraculous works, less spectacular than the Octet but no less astonishing in youthful mastery, speak of Mendelssohn’s complete absorption in Beethoven’s late quartets. Few composers have manifested deeper understanding of a predecessor’s unique greatness. In both these quartets Mendelssohn recreates a Beethovenian unity-in-diversity, which requires the interpreters to keep the impetus mounting, the drama unfolding, through all four movements; but at the same time there is a Mendelssohnian delicacy of texture, a lightness of melodic invention that must not be hard-pressed.
The beautifully warm, close-knit Leipzig sound proves an unfailing asset (the more so given the full, well-balanced recording); likewise the ability to pace the music so as to keep in acute balance its backward-looking and forward-looking aspects. In the famous G minor Canzonetta of Op. 12, however, and at parallel scherzoso points in Op. 13, I found myself wishing for more quicksilver in the articulation, and more frequent recourse to soft dynamics. Among currently available versions of these works, those by the Mosaïques Quartet (Auvidis Astrée), less mellow in tone, excel at just these points, and for this reason I prefer them. Nevertheless, these fine Leipzig Quartet readings deserve to win many admirers. Max Loppert