LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartet in B flat, K458 (Hunt); String Quartet in C, K465 (Dissonance)
PERFORMER: Leipzig Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 1107-2
The Leipzig players take a broad view of these familiar masterpieces, with every single repeat observed – which means that with the exception of the slow movements you get to hear virtually everything at least twice. In the case of the Hunt Quartet’s first movement, where Mozart reserves his contrasting theme for the start of the development section, and where there’s a substantial coda following the second repeat, it makes perfect sense to hear the long second half again; but I’m not so sure about the finale, which here comes to a firm full-stop, only to start up again. Never mind: these are in the main first-rate performances, with the opening movement of the Hunt taken at a genuine Allegro vivace assai, and Mozart’s dynamic markings scrupulously observed throughout. Not that that doesn’t leave scope for interpretative freedom, and in the Dissonance Quartet I particularly like the way the Leipzig Quartet treats the minor-mode trio of the minuet as an agitato. The one major disappointment is the prosaic and impatient account of the same work’s famous slow introduction, which seriously lacks a sense of mystery.
Among alternatives, the Lindsays offer a particularly rewarding performance of the Dissonance, managing to tug at the heart-strings in the slow movement in a manner that just eludes the Leipzig players. And the Alban Berg Quartet’s EMI version of the Hunt finds a touch more energy in the finale, as well as greater charm in the minuet’s trio, with its ‘trotting’ inner-voice accompaniment. Misha Donat