Quatuor Arod perform Mendelssohn’s String Quartets with Marianne Crebassa

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Warner Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn
WORKS: String Quartets: No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13; No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44/2; Four Pieces, Op. 81; Frage, Op. 9/1* (arr. Aparailly)
PERFORMER: *Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano); Quatuor Arod
CATALOGUE NO: 9029576112

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Composed in the months following Beethoven’s death, when Mendelssohn was just 18, the A minor Quartet is a youthful masterpiece on a par with the preceding Octet and Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, and arguably more inventive and original than either. It was the first score the brilliant young players of the Quatuor Arod read through when they came together at the Paris Conservatoire in 2013, and has become something of their talisman. Here they deliver what must surely be one of the most intense, detailed and passionate accounts of it ever recorded.

Even in the work’s calm introduction, which returns so touchingly at the very end of its innovatory cyclical structure, the nervous tension is palpable, and the first movement Allegro kicks off at a frantic pace one imagines cannot help degenerating into a scramble – but which never does, such is these players’ hair-trigger clarity of articulation and volatility of expression. They bring similar qualities to the manically inventive finale with its furious recitatives and impetuous flurries. Yet they are equally sensitive to the remote fugal wanderings of the slow movement and to the chilled sweetness of the Intermezzo third movement, with its elfin trio.

Under such committed and virtuosic treatment, neither the superbly sustained E minor Quartet, Op. 44 No. 2 of ten years later nor the miscellaneous Four Pieces, Op. 81 that Mendelssohn’s publisher threw together after his death, has the slightest chance of lapsing into the comfortable predictability for which some commentators have censured Mendelssohn’s later output. This is a revelatory debut disc.

Bayan Northcott

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.