LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: String Quintet K515 in C major; String Quintet K516 in G minor
PERFORMER: Tokyo String Quartet; Pinchas Zukerman
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 60940 2 DDD
These are elegant, technically superb performances of the two greatest Mozart string quintets. They both have two viola parts, unlike Boccherini’s (on which they might be modelled), which have two cellos (Boccherini was a cellist, Mozart a viola player, vive la différence…).
This is as fine a performance on modern instruments as you will find in today’s catalogue. But if you are addicted to period instruments, you will very possibly hate the slickness, the juicy sound and the almost constant vibrato. It is probably not at all what Mozart envisaged – certainly not the large sound of the strings and the omnipresent vibrato.
If you yearn for a leaner sound, you might try the Salomon Quartet on Hyperion, though personally I think the ideal coupling of K515 and K516 on period instruments has yet to come.
The works are extremely difficult and you cannot just walk into a studio and record them; they need to be in the artists’ repertory for a long time before they are, as it were, immortalised. The Tokyo group plus Zukerman have obviously thought long and seriously about the music’s content and for the moment this will do very nicely for any new collector.
HC Robbins Landon