COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Myrios Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: String Quartet in G, K387; String Quartet in B flat, K458
PERFORMER: Hagen Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Myrios Classics MYR 017
Mozart confessed he worked long and hard on the six string quartets dedicated to his idol Haydn, maybe wondering if he could match the character of the older composer’s themes and vigour of argument. But he evidently also strove to create the most richly textured and lustrous-sounding quartets ever, and they have rarely sounded more beautiful than in this new release from the Hagen Quartet – founded back in 1981 by four siblings, but now with Rainer Schmidt as second violin.
The recording is intimate, as though we are seated in a salon a few feet from the performers – who therefore have no need to strain and ‘project’ as in a larger concert hall. Some of the quieter more veiled passages in, for instance the slow movement of the G major Quartet sound quite magical. Then, to their absolute security of intonation, these players bring an astonishing variety of vibrato, nuance and colour. These are, indeed, distinctly Romantic readings that could have more doctrinaire authenticists tut-tutting.
Just occasionally, the Hagens’ local ‘spontaneities’ of tempo, surely carefully rehearsed, edge over into mannerism, as in the obtrusive hiatus they insert before the sudden drop in volume in the opening phrase of the G major. All the same, the inventive and emotional fullness of this masterpiece is gloriously conveyed. The B flat Quartet is a lighter, more bucolic work, but the slow sequences in its Adagio sound no less piercingly lovely.