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CD: Crotchet

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A major, K.581 (1789) [33:39]
String Quartet in Bb major, K.458 ‘The Hunt’ (1784) [26:25]
String Quartet in G major, K.387 ‘Spring’ (1782) [23:02]
String Quartet in E flat major, K.428 (1783) [22:05]
String Quartet in C major, K.465 ‘Dissonance’(1785) [28:27]*
String Quartet in C major, K.465 ‘Dissonance’(1785) [25:07]#
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
String Quartet in D minor, Op.76 No.2 ‘Fifths’ Hob.III:76 (1797) [21:26]
String Quartet in G minor, Op.74 No.3 (1793) [19:45]
String Quartet in D major, Op.64 No.5 ‘Largo’ Hob. III:79 (1797) [17:25]
Georgina Dobrée (clarinet)
The Loewenguth Quartet (see end of review for details)
rec. 1945-72
DOREMI DHR-7846/48 [3 CDs: 74:51 + 71:39 + 71:08]
Experience Classicsonline

The Loewenguth is a quartet that will be remembered with admiration by many. Founded back in 1929 by Alfred Loewenguth, when competition from other native French groups was tough, it slowly gained ground, making its first North American tour in 1945. Their early recorded metier in the 1930s and 40s was Mozart and Beethoven; after which they were taken up by DG and then a raft of labels including Vox, prominently, and Philips and Westminster amongst others. Their discography is pretty extensive and includes 78 sets as well as LPs. The final item in this three CD set, for instance, the Mozart Dissonance Quartet, was a six sided 78 set made at the end of the War.

This Doremi offering delves into their Classical repertoire and is entirely given over to performances of Haydn and Mozart made over a period of just over a quarter of a century. One work is reprised. The Dissonance already alluded to was recorded again in 1972 by which time the Quartet had undergone, apart from its primarius, a complete changeover. Gone were Maurice Fueri, violist Roger Roche and cellist Pierre Basseux. In truth the heyday of the quartet was long gone.

That early 78 performance attests to the natural rhythmic impetus of the group. It’s a fine entrée to their playing which has a rhythmic freedom and requisite sense of colour. Or it would; we shall have to infer it because unfortunately too much noise reduction has rendered it very dull sounding indeed. The deadly sound of a rumbling computer attests to what’s gone on. Their 1972 performance is broader and perhaps more imposing; it’s certainly more explicitly intense. This disc, the last of the three, also includes a 1950 recording for DG of Haydn’s Op.64 No.5 quartet. This still contained the then established members of the quartet and is an index of their assurance in the repertoire. I have not heard the LP from which it derives so am making assumptions but I am sure the transfer could do with a significant treble boost. It’s a dull sounding affair, though not nearly as bad as the 78.

The trio of Mozart performances enshrined in disc two - K387, K428 and K458 - were made for DG (K458) and Allegro in 1950-51. The playing is refined and elegant, though they don’t hesitate to point up the dissonances in K428. It’s very different ensemble playing to that cultivated by, say, the Calvet or the Bouillon, to take two near contemporaneous French groups who also recorded extensively. But it is impressive and admirable playing, and one’s enjoyment is only limited by the actual sound which is once again consticted. Two Haydn Quartets appear on the first disc in recordings made c.1958 by which time Jacques Gotkovsky had replaced second violin Maurice Fueri and Roger Loewenguth had ascended to the cello chair. Their Op.76 No.2 is quite robust and there’s some real no-nonsense chording in the opening of Op.74 No.3. They play its finale with brio but not always absolute precision; the playing is somewhat less clearly refined than in the earlier incarnation. To conclude there’s an engaging and mellifluous Quintet for Clarinet and Strings with Georgina Dobrée from c.1972.

This is a difficult one to assess. In its favour Doremi has cleverly kept off Franco-Belgian repertoire - their Franck, Debussy and Fauré for instance are well known - and the Mozart and Haydn performances are valuable and the group is estimable. But the transfers are unsympathetic.

Jonathan Woolf

Loewenguth Quartet members
1st violin: Alfred Loewenguth (all)
2nd violin: Maurice Fueri (Mozart - K387, 428, 458, 465#; Haydn - 64/5) Philippe Langlois (Mozart - K465*, 581) Jacques Gotkovsky (Mozart - ; Haydn - 74/3, 76/2)
Viola: Jean-Claude Dewaele (Mozart - K465*, 581) Roger Roche (Mozart - K387, 428, 458, 465#; Haydn - 64/5, 74/3, 76/2)
Cello: Roger Loewenguth (Mozart - K465*, 581; Haydn - 74/3, 76/2) Pierre Basseux (Mozart -K387, 428, 458, 465#; Haydn - 64/5)

Recording details
K387: rec. 1951. Source: Allegro AL 26
K458: rec. 1950. Source DG 18 315
K465*: rec. live , c.1972. Source DQL 501
K465#: c.1945. Source: Gramophone DB 11120/1/2
K581: rec. live , c.1972. Source DQL 501

Op. 64/5: rec. 1950. Source DG 18 315
Op. 74/3: rec. c.1958. Source: fono-ring FGLP 77 626
Op. 76/2: rec. c.1958. Source: fono-ring FGLP 77 626


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