These are thoroughly
congenial, Classical quartets cut, in the main, from Haydn’s
cloth and made even more attractive by the fine performances
of the young Enső quartet. If this is indeed their debut disc
it’s an auspicious start, though Pleyel’s virtuosic concertante
first violin writing doesn’t always give one the opportunity
to appreciate their corporate tonal homogeneity as one would
Pleyel was a pupil
of Haydn and the influence is pervasive though not oppressive.
Allegros, such as that of the A major, are buoyant, carefully
laid out and defined toward the first violin. The Andante of
the same quartet, unusually all three quartets are in three
movements, is weighted toward the middle voicings, the viola-rich
writing imparting autumnal colours in this expertly realised
performance. They take a freely moving tempo as well, managing
to retain expressive potential whilst avoiding any sense of
lagging. There’s easy swing in the Menuetto finale, capped by
a Mozartian throwaway ending.
The second in the
set of Op.2 – a set greatly appreciated by Mozart – features
an even more powerful concertante role for Maureen Nelson, the
first violin. It’s almost proto-Spohr in its cavalier domination
of the ensemble texture though it doesn’t rise much beyond the
realm of Classicism and certainly breaches no stylistic boundaries.
The lower voiced drones are well brought out, the little silences
in the fabric of the opening timed to perfection. The slow movement
is warmly lyric though it sports an underlying dance rhythm
in the cello part. And in the finale the drones are more explicitly
brought out with the fast passagework in the first violin part
adding its own tensile drama to the proceedings.
The G minor, No.3,
opens with an intense, but tuneful, Adagio. It sports an arresting
B section and makes an altogether powerful impression through
its vocalised power – it’s almost a transplanted operatic scena.
The following Allegro is breathlessly etched but cleanly
articulated, firm and strong, with those lower string ascents
and descents full of colour and theatrical drama. We end, quite
suitably, with an example of Pleyel at his grazioso best in
the finale – with an admixture of real refinement and, in the
best sense, artifice.
As already noted
these players never skate over the surface of the music, some
of which could easily be taken for granted as by rote classicism
(which it is not). The second volume to complete Op.2 should
be on its way and will be well worth waiting for.
see also Reviews
by Gwyn Parry-Jones and Göran