LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Mendelssohn: String Quartets: in E minor, Op. 44 No. 2; in D, Op. 44 No. 1 – Andante espressivo; Mozart: String Quartet in C, K465 (Dissonance); Schubert: Quartettsatz
PERFORMER: Elias Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0028
In the liner notes the second violin of the ensemble, Donald Grant, mentions working on the Mozart Dissonance Quartet with Kurtág,
and how ‘he brought out the simplicity of the music, helped us to let it speak for itself, rather than forcing ourselves on it.’
This approach characterises all the music on this disc, to its great advantage. Both Schubert and Mozart put all the mystery required into the beginnings of their respective works, and especially in the Mozart a cool set of hands (or bows) only adds to the spookiness.
I’m not sure the leader’s new instrument is quite ready to deal with Mendelssohn’s extremes of speed – there’s a touch of glassiness in spots – and the cello is occasionally recorded with undue emphasis when it is doing no more than give a bass note; less in these places would help bring out the role of its many melodic lines elsewhere.
But the players capture beautifully the mix of grace and jokiness in the Mozart Minuet, and in the Mendelssohn they apply just enough rubato to give colour and meaning, without ever interrupting the flow. The final Presto agitato is a tour de force, rightly acclaimed by the audience. Roger Nichols