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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1806)
String Quartets Op 50, No. 1, Hob 111:44 (1787) [19.28]
String Quartets Op 50, No. 2, Hob 111:45 (1787) [19.09]
String Quartets Op 50, No. 3, Hob 111:46 (1787) [20.14]
Amati String Quartet: Willi Zimmerman, Katarzyna Nawrotek, violins; Nicolas Corti, viola; Claudius Herrmann, cello.
Recorded at Radiostudio Zürich, Switzerland, July 1, 1999
Notes in Deutsch, English, and Français. Images of artists, composer, and dedicatee.
DIVOX CDX-29810 [58.51]

Comparison Recordings:
Haydn, Op 50, Nos. 1-3. Kodaly Quartet, [65.02] Naxos 8.55398.3

I once wrote that there is (almost) no such thing as a bad string quartet, that the rewards are so few and the work so difficult that only those who love it will do it at all and those who love it generally do it well. But among the good there are the great, and among the great there are also colours, red and blue, so to speak, and that is what we have here. The Amati quartet is a virtuoso group playing with beauty of tone and phrase and astounding polish and precision. At times it seems as if they want to set a new speed record for playing all the notes perfectly. They project the image of Haydn as the master musician and man of God whose spirit soars above the clouds and whose hands reach unto Heaven.

The Kodaly group are every bit as skilled, but there is much more feeling in their playing. They project the image of the Haydn who however world famous a musician he was never forgot his friends in the village where he grew up, always enjoyed a good joke and a rousing peasant dance, a man with his feet firmly planted upon the earth. They are not afraid to be a little rough here and there to set off the silkiness later on. That is the choice you face here with these two versions. As you can see, the Kodaly group are 11% slower in their timing which gives them time for reflection and pause among the gaiety and excitement. If you have the opportunity to make your own comparison, try track 8 on both disks, the Finale: Vivace assai from the C major quartet of this set where the difference is especially clear.

Both versions are excellent, both are "perfect". The Amati quartet have recorded a number of Haydn quartets and also much modern quartet music in which they specialise. The Kodaly group have recorded Schubert quartets and also accomplished the amazing work of recording the complete quartets of Haydn for Naxos and after hearing their disk you may want to buy them all, for Haydn never wrote a bad Symphony out of the 105 I say this from experience having listened to them all nor did he ever write a bad String Quartet out of the 83 or so I say this in anticipation of hearing every one of them.

Paul Shoemaker

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