Mozart: String Quintets, K 174 (original and final versions) & 515

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: CRD
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: String Quintets, K 174 (original and final versions) & 515
PERFORMER: Chilingirian Quartet; Yuko Inoue (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 3521
Mozart was only 17 when he composed his First String Quintet, K174, and it can’t stand comparison with its great successors. Some months after he completed it, Mozart revised its last two movements, composing an entirely new ‘echo’ trio for the minuet, and reworking the finale into a more expanded – and successful – piece using some of the previous material. The Chilingirian Quartet’s recording, with Yuko Inoue as second viola, is the first I’ve come across to include both versions of

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the two pieces in question, so that you can make your own choice between them.

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After K174 there was a gap of 14 years before Mozart returned to composing for string quintet. When he did so, he produced one of the grandest and most beautiful of all his chamber works, the C major Quintet, K515. On the whole, this new recording is admirable, with Levon Chilingirian’s expressive, sweet-toned playing a decided asset throughout. However, the ‘chugging’ accompaniments that characterise so much of the opening movement sound too prominent – a result, perhaps, of a recorded balance that focuses on the inner parts. There’s greater lightness and elegance in the two recordings made by the Amadeus Quartet and Cecil Aronowitz. The earlier of them, from the 1950s (now on DG), has the advantage of including the first-movement repeat, though the mono sound hasn’t worn too well; but the 1967 version is irresistible, and it’s hard to imagine the slow movement’s operatic duet for first violin and first viola more beautifully played than by Norbert Brainin and Peter Schidlof. Misha Donat