Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Mozart,Weber
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16, in F, Op. 135; Mozart: Clarinet Quintet; Weber: Clarinet Quintet in B flat, Op. 34
PERFORMER: Sabine Meyer (clarinet); Hagen Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 2072318

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This concert, given in the Salzburg Mozarteum in January 2000, gets off to a less than ideal start, with an account of the opening movement of Beethoven’s late String Quartet Op. 135 that’s so leisurely that the piece is in danger of falling apart at the seams. The Mozart Clarinet Quintet is on a higher level altogether – a Romantically spacious performance, with playing of great warmth and expressive depth throughout.

Only the slow movement isn’t quite as serene and hushed as it can be – partly because the players, following the posthumously-published first edition to the letter (which made wholesale changes to the clarinet part in order to accommodate it to the compass of the normal instrument), leave the lower pair of stringed instruments unmuted. Mozart would surely have wanted the entire string quartet to play with mutes, as is usually done. But it’s a small point in what is a very classy performance indeed.

Medici Arts haven’t exactly pushed the boat out as far as extras are concerned. There’s nothing other than a short encore billed in the booklet and the DVD menu as the Minuet and trio from the Weber Quintet, though the trio is actually missing.

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Perhaps the performers were unhappy with the way it went, and it’s been edited out, though the trio is a piece of cake compared with the rhythmic intricacies of the presto minuet itself, which is tossed off here with apparent ease. The recorded sound is first-class throughout. Misha Donat