Mozart: : ‘Milan’ Quartets, KV 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: : ‘Milan’ Quartets, KV 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160
PERFORMER: Coull Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 049
Mozart composed these six quartets in Milan, around the time of his 17th birthday. The most forward-looking of the group is K159, which begins with an Andante and has an agitated Allegro in G minor as its centrepiece; but more accomplished are the second and third works of the series – ideal introductions to ensemble playing for young performers.

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These are in the main fine performances, with a real feel for the freshness and unpretentiousness of Mozart’s youthful style. In the middle section of K155’s first movement, where Mozart tries his hand at some imitative writing, the Coull Quartet players find new colours; and they treat the opera buffa-like lead-back to the recapitulation in K157’s Allegro with appropriate liveliness and wit. On their own terms these are very satisfying accounts, and it’s only when you compare them to the classic recordings by the Quartetto Italiano that you feel there’s just occasionally something lacking. The Italian players convey greater depth in those minor-mode slow movements, and their playing generally has more intensity even in the quick movements. However, the Philips recordings are only available now in a boxed set, and this newcomer makes for an attractive alternative. The recorded sound is clear, if a little close. Misha Donat