Mozart: String Quartets Dedicated to Joseph Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: String Quartets Dedicated to Joseph Haydn
WORKS: String Quartets No. 14 in G, No. 16 in E flat & No. 19 in C
PERFORMER: Cuarteto Casals

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Why Haydn and Mozart admired one another so wholeheartedly, without any apparent taint of rivalry, was that they were different types of composer. Haydn was a seeker, continually experimenting and developing over a long career; Mozart was a finder, steadily exploring and enriching the gifts, forms and influences that were his from the start. The younger composer may have laboured long to compose something worthy of the mastery of the older, but few bars of Mozart’s six Quartets dedicated to Haydn actually sound Haydnesque. Where Haydn’s quartet writing is typically spare, agile and full of surprises, Mozart’s textures are generally fuller, more ornate, with any thrills or spills integrated into large-scale schemes of tonal stability.

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In this new release, the period players of the Cuarteto Casals reveal an intimate understanding of the special qualities of Mozart’s quartet style. Whether in the occasionally fraught repose of the Andante of the C major Quartet, the strangely angular opening theme of the E flat or the quicksilver glidings of the fugal episodes of the finale of the G major, virtually every phrase is brought to life and coloured by some variation of bow pressure or speed, or vibrato. Tempos tend to be slightly on the brisk side of more ‘traditional’ readings, but the unusual decision to take the Trio of the C major Quartet much faster than its surrounding Minuet is justified by the music’s agitated character. The recorded sound is fine-grained and vibrant. Bayan Northcott