The Jerusalem Quartet
recently gave a stimulating BBC Radio
3 Lunchtime Concert at the Wigmore Hall
All boded (generally) well for this
full-price release of three ‘named’
Haydn quartets, therefore.
Actually, the disc
is substantially ahead of expectations.
Aided by an exemplary recording – clear,
detailed, close but not too close –
the Jerusalem Quartet makes the best
case for all three pieces. The first
idea of the ‘Lark’ is most attractive.
It actually turns out to be the accompaniment
to the first violin’s soaring figure,
sweetly rendered here by Alexander Pavlovsky.
Throughout this movement (and the disc
as a whole for that matter) there is
some very suave phrasing, while on the
technical side all is safe. The Jerusalem
Quartet conveys Haydn’s exuberance of
invention as well as displaying plenty
of the youthful vigour I commented on
in their Wigmore recital; try the way
they dig into the Menuetto of the ‘Lark’.
The quartet catches the ‘singing’ (cantabile)
element of the slow movement of this
quartet most beautifully and the richness
of tone at around 2’35 is most welcome.
The finale is – rightly- vivace as marked
and not presto, whatever the temptation
might have been to scamper along remorselessly.
It is thus fully consistent with the
reading and, furthermore, is pure delight
(the finale to the ‘Lobkowitz’ provides
The ‘Fifths’ Quartet
rightly deserves its name. The interval
permeates the material from the very
opening bars. The Jerusalem Quartet
makes it perfectly obvious here that
this is another side of Haydn’s coin,
more resolute and determined than Op.
64 No. 5. The players are certainly
not afraid to project the rawness of
emotion (no pussy-footing around here)
and the tension does not drop for a
second (especially commendable in the
development). Here, especially, the
recording quality impressed. The reverb
level is perfectly set so there is just
the right amount of ambience, yet all
detail comes through easily. The reading’s
intent is surely to bring out Haydn’s
earthiness – the Trio of the third movement
is positively thigh-slapping in its
The late Op. 77/1 (dedicated
to Prince Lobkowitz, who also commissioned
Beethoven’s Op. 18) is a magnificent
piece and the Jerusalem Quartet allocates
it its full weight, especially in the
intense yet ultimately peaceful Adagio.
A quartet of contrasts in the Jerusalem’s
eyes, the Menuetto is truly Presto,
shifting uneasily in its headlong trajectory.
This is a magnificent
disc from a young quartet that surely
has a glowing future ahead of it. True,
the evidence is that they thrive on
recording as opposed to live performance,
but I for one will be tracking their