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Budapest String Quartet
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
String Quartet in C K465 Dissonance
String Quartet in D K499 Hoffmeister
String Quartet in F K590
Budapest String Quartet
Recorded 1932-35
BIDDULPH 80213-2 [71.59]


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All stages of the Budapest Quartet’s discography are fortunately covered in the current catalogues. Their very earliest discs tend to come and go but the 1930s and later have been reasonably well documented, not least their Library of Congress recitals (on Bridge) and later incarnations into the 1950s and 1960s (Sony et al). Biddulph gives us a trio of Mozart quartets from a three-year period between 1932 and 35. The catalogues of the time were pretty much bereft of K 590, which makes the Budapest’s recording so valuable. K499 had been done by the Prisca for Polydor and K465 had always been popular; around this time it was recorded variously by the Pascal (for French Odeon), the Kolisch and the Loewenguth; the Lener had recorded a late acoustic as well.

Nevertheless there is cachet in these Budapest traversals. The Dissonance is bright and effervescent; the newish Russian pairing of fiddlers Roisman and Schneider blend gracefully in the opening movement though the slow movement is prey to something of a recurring problem, one of slightly manicured phrasing in Andantes; prayerful certainly but not altogether convincing. But the Scherzo recovers ground with lissom elegance in the trio and Roisman scores highly in the finale with his fine bowing and the quartet pays attention to corporate dynamics. The Hoffmeister has real grazioso elegance and once more quite an intense slow movement – though this one is more natural and unaffected than the Dissonance – and a spirited finale. The Quartet in F K590 was recorded in 1935 and though there’s a higher ration of surface noise there’s also a greater degree of definition and presence. Inner voices are palpable and calibrated with care; here they take a good, flowing tempo in the slow movement and catch the off-kilter wit of the minuet as much as the drone-like effects in the finale.

Biddulph has not detailed original issue or matrix numbers so I can only infer that they have used commercial pressings. There’s some chuffing at the end of the slow movement of the Hoffmeister and K590 has retained a relatively high level of shellac noise. Otherwise the livery is in the now accustomed Biddulph house style and notes are by Tully Potter, whom I congratulate for not having mentioned the Busch Quartet once.

Jonathan Woolf


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