COMPOSERS: Fanny Mendelssohn,Felix Mendelssohn
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn: Complete Works for String Quartet
WORKS: String Quartets Nos 1-6; String Quartet in E flat minor, Op. post.; Four Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 81; Fugues for String Quartet; Fanny Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E flat major
PERFORMER: Benyounes, Idomeneo, Sacconi, Navarra, Castalian, Piatti, Badke, Wu, Cavaleri and Artea String Quartets
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD085
After sounding off with various grumpy remarks over the years about players who treat Mendelssohn’s music as a playground for ‘romantic’ effects, distorting rhythms and inventing tempos, it has been a true delight for me to find ten groups of young string players who take the composer’s notes seriously. They prove that such fidelity does not inevitably lead to performances that are stilted or unimpassioned. It can be argued that the value of any musical work is related to the number of persuasive interpretations it can carry. If so, then David and Mary Bowerman, the founders of Champs Hill Records, deserve our gratitude for setting up a format that allows these quartets, showing Mendelssohn at his best, to reveal their multifarious qualities: energy, passion, tenderness, wit and civilised authority.
Not everything is perfect. In the first movement of the D major Quartet a few of the semiquavers are obscured by the volume, and in the Allegretto of Fanny’s Quartet there’s an uneasy tempo fluctuation just before the reprise. I wonder also about the wisdom of including the 12 Fugues from 1821, and of playing them more or less mf throughout; if one is going to play them, then surely some dynamics have to be invented? But these are small points. Overall, I can only applaud the musicianship of these excellently recorded performances, which give us Mendelssohn in his infinite variety.