Mozart: String Quartets: No. 4 in C, K157; No. 17 in B flat, K458; No. 22 in B flat, K589

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: String Quartets: No. 4 in C, K157; No. 17 in B flat, K458; No. 22 in B flat, K589
PERFORMER: Jerusalem Quartet

Mozart scholars tend to regard the majority of the composer’s earliest quartets as of little consequence. Not so the Jerusalem Quartet, who open this captivating release with a beautifully sculpted C major, K157. Observing every repeat in this three-movement work might seem counterproductive, inflating the musical argument beyond its modest proportions. Yet the Jerusalems overcome the problem by drawing one’s attention to different musical details second time round.
Tempos throughout are admirably judged and the interaction between each individual line sounds totally natural. Thus the opening Allegro is projected with all the requisite grace and elegance, the central operatically inspired C minor Andante sounds deeply affecting without recourse to exaggerated interpretative gestures, while the Presto finale fizzes along with high-spirited youthful energy.
The Jerusalem Quartet’s approach, balancing full-blooded tone with exemplary contrapuntal clarity and a sure sense of structural direction, brings even greater musical dividends in the two mature quartets. Once again decisions regarding tempo and the delineation of inner musical details seem totally convincing.
A good example is the Adagio of the Hunt, K458, where the Jerusalems adopt a broadly spacious speed which enables every expressive gesture to make its impact without any hint of dragging. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Finale is delivered at a high-octane pace but never sounds rushed. In the Prussian, K589, a special delight comes in the middle section of the Minuet in the form of unexpected harmonic twists and bursts of virtuosic energy. Erik Levi