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Seen and Heard Recital Review


Haydn and Mozart Quatuor Mosaïques (Erich Höbarth, Andrea Bishof, violins; Anita Mitterer, viola; Christophe Coin, cello), Wigmore Hall, 1pm, Monday, 15th November, 2004 (CC)

Stunning playing. The ‘authentic’ tag is here applied to a quartet that plays with supreme assurance and to a technical standard the envy, surely, of most modern-instrument groups. Interestingly (especially for a lunch-time recital), the quartet chose to present two minor-key works written over a decade apart.

Haydn’s F minor quartet, Op. 20 No. 5 dates from 1772. The first thing to strike this listener at the beginning of the ‘Moderato’ was the sheer warmth of sound, projected right to the back of the hall. The next thing was that the period sound here actually underlined the pathos of the music. Finally there was the ensemble’s tuning – absolutely spot on.

This quartet is full of dark shadows. The ‘Menuet’ is no ballroom refugee, with little trace of levity, and it comes as no surprise that the Adagio takes its Siciliano rhythms to far-flung areas. Voice interchanges between violins were of the utmost loveliness.

Mozart’s D minor Quartet, K421 (1783) has a story attached to it. According to the composer’s wife, Constanze, the minuet was composed while she was delivering their first child (Raimund Leopold). It is true that that particular movement is a rumbustious affair (with a charming trio), but it is part of a quartet that includes extremes of emotion. The anguished opening set out the quartet’s remit. One was struck by the independence of parts (and the excellence of their execution). No less fascinating were the later harmonic explorations.

An ‘Andante’ in this context is going to be no stroll in the park, and so it proved. The Quatuor Mosaïques was breathtaking in its concentrated approach (not to mention the exemplary balancing of chords). If the finale has its more gently rollicking moments, it can rise to the gritty in keeping with K421’s ethos.

This was a miraculous meeting of minds, of Mozart’s genius with outstanding, sympathetic interpreters. Tremendous clarity of individual strands coupled with an underlying poignancy led to an unforgettable lunchtime. Almost too much for that time of day, in fact.

Colin Clarke

Further Listening:

Haydn ‘Sun’ Quartets, Op. 20: Astrée Auvidis E8784 (Gramophone Award, Chamber, 1993)
Haydn Op. 33 Nos. 2, 3 & 5 Astrée Auvidis E8569 (Gramophone Award, Chamber, 1996)

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