Mozart’s String Quartets Nos 22 & 23 and String Quintet No. 2 performed by the Dover Quartet & Michael Tree

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Cedille
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: String Quartets: No. 22 in B flat, K589; No. 23 in F, K590; String Quintet No. 2 in C minor, K406
PERFORMER: Dover Quartet; Michael Tree (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CDR 90000167

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The Dover Quartet comprises four young players who came together at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where they were coached by members of the renowned Guarneri Quartet. This new release, their first, is something of a tribute to their mentors: including the same pair of Mozart quartets as the Guarneri put out on their premiere disc 50 years ago, and with Michael Tree of the Guarneri sitting in as second viola in the Mozart Quintet. And while the Dover Quartet is perhaps less gritty and volatile – if no less expressive – than the Guarneri in more excitable moments, these readings are very much in the Guarneri tradition, emphasising blend and consistency of vibrato rather than using varying degrees of vibrato as a colouristic device after the manner of more recent ‘period’ quartets.

Mozart wrote his late quartets to a commission from the cello-playing King of Prussia (who never paid for them). They are often assessed as less perfect and profound than the six earlier quartets he had dedicated to Haydn – partly because, in spotlighting the cello, Mozart created some high-lying phrases and tricky-to-balance quartet textures. It is not the least virtue of these new readings to convince the ear that such passages, far from sounding awkward, are fresh and innovatory. The Dover Quartet also demonstrate how successfully, in transcribing his Wind Serenade in C minor, K 406 into idiomatic writing for five string players, Mozart managed to preserve the starkness and intensity of the original. The recording is close-up and involving.

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Bayan Northcott