WORKS: String quartets K464 & K465
PERFORMER: Guarneri Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 432 076-2 DDD
These are the last two of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn – music that prompted him to describe Mozart as ‘the greatest composer I know in person or by name’. Even Haydn, though, was puzzled by the slow introduction to the C major k465, whose bold new harmonies have earned the work the nickname of the Dissonance. The a major quartet k464 was Beethoven’s favourite, and he modelled his own quartet in the same key, op. 18 no.5, closely on it.
The Guarneri take a leisurely view of the opening movement in both works, and some may find their approach a touch over-romanticised. But there’s no doubting their sincerity, and it is good to hear performances that really allow the music to breathe (too much so on a couple of occasions in the outer movements of the Dissonance, where pauses are exaggeratedly elongated).
Full marks, too, for restoring two bars in the first violin part of K465’s slow movement that Mozart forgot to write in. There can be no possible doubt about what he wanted, and the passages in question sound nonsensical without the relevant notes; yet in our authenticity-obsessed age we seldom hear them. The recording is close, though not unpleasantly so. Recommended. Misha Donat