Mozart: String Quartet in E flat, K428; String Quartet in A, K464

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet in E flat, K428; String Quartet in A, K464
PERFORMER: Leipzig Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 1160-2
These are accomplished performances of the intellectually inclined E flat Quartet, K428 (its opening theme is curiously constructivist for Mozart), and the warmer A major, K464, though as in previous Mozart recordings by these players, the generosity when it comes to the question of repeats won’t be to everyone’s taste. It makes perfect sense to hear both halves of K464’s intricately contrapuntal finale twice, before the piece is wrapped up with a substantial coda; but I’m not so sure about the advisability of observing the long second-half repeat in the opening movement, where there is no coda and the central development section is in any case unusually short. The slow movement is also heard twice in its entirety here, but at least the Leipzig players adopt a sensibly flowing tempo for the piece – unlike the Mosaïques Quartet (Auvidis Astrée) whose languid performance, also with both repeats, manages to spin the movement out to very nearly a quarter of an hour. As for the minuet, the Leipzig Quartet does the repeats even on the da capo, so you get to hear this portion of the work no fewer than four times – surely too much of a good thing.

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For all the undeniable attractiveness of the playing, then, it’s hard not to hanker after less encyclopaedic interpretations of these great works – the poise and elegance of the Quartetto Italiano in K428, for instance; or the freshness of the Alban Berg Quartet’s early recording of K464 (its later EMI version makes rather heavy weather of the slow variation-movement). Misha Donat