Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 13; String Quintet No. 2 in B flat, Op. 87

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 13; String Quintet No. 2 in B flat, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Hausmusik
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45104 2 DDD
In 1821, Beethoven noted that ‘one Mendelssohn, 12 years old – promises much’, an observation vindicated upon the publication, six years later, of the young composer’s Second String Quartet. Among Mendelssohn’s most cohesive and harmonically sophisticated creations, the Op. 13 work recalls Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 132 in its chorale-like slow introduction. A recurring motto theme, from Mendelssohn’s song Frage (‘Question’) Op. 9/1, and the reappearance of the invocatory chorale figure in the closing paragraphs of the work, support overall thematic unity. The period instrument group Hausmusik address this splendidly crafted, if unaccountably neglected, quartet with striking bravura and flaming commitment. First violinist Monica Huggett is superb, notably in the somersaulting cadential return to the elegiac processional subject of the Adagio non lento, and in another Beethovenian device – the agonised recitative prefacing the finale.

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Pavlo Besnoziuk leads with comparable authority in Hausmusik’s inspirational performance of the masterly, yet seldom encountered String Quintet, Op. 87, Mendelssohn’s second (and last) essay in the Mozartian two-viola quintet genre. From the outset, this account is distinguished by its evident sincerity and that mercurial élan, clarity and technical finesse so typical of this ensemble. The indomitable verve and expressive beauty of Hausmusik’s playing are magnetically compelling, and preserved here in radiantly transparent sound; one could hardly imagine this music better served by either artistry or technology.