Mozart: String Quartet in F, K168; String Quartet in C, K465 (Dissonance); Serenade in G, K 525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: String Quartet in F, K168; String Quartet in C, K465 (Dissonance); Serenade in G, K 525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
PERFORMER: Brandis Quartet Rainer Zepperitz (double bass)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5564
The Dissonance Quartet is so called because of its extraordinary Adagio introduction, whose dark chromaticism creates a tension that is almost teasingly dissipated in the sudden onset of the C major Allegro. Although we hear nothing comparable again, the opening sets the tone for the rest of the work, as if to warn us that, in this largely sunny work, we should not take (harmonic) resolution for granted.

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The Brandis Quartet was founded by members of the Berlin Philharmonic; it brings to bear some of that weighty tradition in this new recording – the opening is played with a rich vibrato to produce a dense, brooding sound, showing how Mozart anticipates the harmonic and emotional restlessness of Romanticism. Another approach is shown in the recent fine recording by the Mosaïques Quartet which, playing on period instruments, uses vibrato sparingly, so that the textures are more transparent and taut – the opening here is more elusive than tragic.

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The strengths of the Brandis Quartet’s account lie in the warm intensity of the playing, notably in the Trio, and in the body and bite that characterise the faster movements, which are here shaped by broad phrases – this is an unfussy performance. However, many will prefer the more finely expressive account by the Mosaïques Quartet; the transparency of the ensemble playing allows for greater subtlety in colour and dynamics – and even for playfulness – so that we seem to get nearer to the music’s complex and fluid emotional and aesthetic sensibility. William Humphreys-Jones