String Quartet No. 14 in G, K387; Divertimento in F, K138; String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K421
Quatuor Van Kuijk
Alpha Classics ALPHA 551 67:24 mins
Three years after their last Mozart disc, rising stars the Van Kuijk Quartet tackle two more of the half-dozen quartets that Mozart dedicated to Haydn in the early 1780s. In between comes the F major Divertimento written when the composer was just 16, a simpler but no less effective piece that here gets just as rich-toned and meaty a performance.
Throughout, one is aware that here are four outstanding musicians, playing four outstanding instruments. The sound is warm and vibrant, the atmosphere focused and intense, although not exclusively so: the trio in the Menuetto of K421, where the first violinist sketches graceful trapeze swings over a pizzicato safety net, is done with what in context is just the right amount of levity. These are very much modern-instrument performances, yet while a juicy vibrato is never far away it’s not unthinkingly applied. Tempos are steady yet nicely sprung, with the exception of the racing finale of the Divertimento, which is a bit of a scramble.
Listened to straight through, the disc feels a little relentless. Perhaps that has something to do with the empty-hall resonance, closeness and forward nature of the recording; perhaps the balance lacks a little subtlety; or perhaps, despite those springy tempos, the Van Kuijks are relishing each note and spelling out every phrase when it would be wiser to let a few of them just flow. Still, even if they are enjoying all this a little, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it too.