LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet in G, K387; String Quartet in D minor, K421
PERFORMER: Leipzig String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 1035-2
The Leipzig Quartet gives characteristically accomplished, responsive performances of these miraculous works. The players’ collective sonority is finely blended, tempi are invariably well-chosen – the two Andantes, for instance, are flowing, but with ample space for expressive detail – and the playing has abundant life and colour. Both works gain from the Leipzigers’ meticulous attention to accents, and their differentiation between piano and pianissimo; and to take just one detail, the breathtaking modulation from C to a veiled D flat in the recapitulation of the G major’s Andante (from bar 58) is exquisitely timed and shaded. They bring an apt edgy intensity to the astonishing, subversive minuet and trio of the same quartet, though here and in the first movement they occasionally undermine momentum by lingering over cadences.
In the first movement of the D minor the players stress the music’s melancholy fatalism rather than its agitation – other groups, including the Mosaïques (Astrée Auvidis), give more prominence to the movement’s restless accompanying figures. In the minuet, too, the Leipzigers are more elegiac than impassioned, tapering the phrases regretfully; and they tend to smooth out the piquant yodelling figures in the trio. The variation finale is sharply characterised (the cross-rhythms in the second variation unusually trenchant), though I was slightly fazed by the accelerando at the Neapolitan deflection (from D minor to E flat) in the theme itself. Still, one or two quibbles apart – and these include a resonant recording which favours the violins over the lower strings – these are highly enjoyable performances, their attractions enhanced by the observance of all marked repeats. My own vote for this particular coupling, though, would go to the wonderfully fresh, inventive interpretations by the Mosaïques, playing on period instruments with no hint of period austerity. Richard Wigmore