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CD & Download: Pristine Audio

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13 (1827) [29:01]
Quartet No. 5 in E flat, Op. 44, No. 3 (1838) [32:33]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Quartet in B minor, Op.58, No.4, G.245 [14:30]
Quartet in B-flat, Op.2, No.2, G.160 [11:05]
Quartet in E-flat, Op.53, No.1, G.236 [10:22]
Quartet in E-flat, Op.58, No.2, G.243 [15:43]
New Music Quartet - Broadus Erle (violin): Matthew Raimondi (violin): Walter Trampler (viola): Claus Adam (cello - Mendelssohn) or David Soyer (cello - Boccherini)
rec. 1954-55
Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York
PRISTINE AUDIO XR PACM069 [61:34 + 51:40]

Experience Classicsonline

It’s the early 1950s and you’re a devotee of Mendelssohn’s chamber music. Maybe you’re an amateur cellist. You want to listen to one of the quartets on disc and you scan the catalogues, possibly venture to your record emporium of choice. What do you find? You find, for a start, that the Budapest Quartet has recorded No.1 for HMV/Victor. You also find things are somewhat better in the case of No.3 where the Guilet has set down a version for Vox, and the Stradivarius for Columbia. Of the others there is no sign of a complete recording though there are isolated movements around.

This must also have struck Columbia in New York, therefore, as a good opportunity to expand into a depleted market. In May 1954 the company engaged the New Music Quartet to record the Second and Fifth Quartets, at a stroke expanding the discography to splendid effect, and furnishing us with excellent examples of this particular quartet’s art on disc. Now, over half a century later these, and other performances, are reinstated by Pristine Audio.

The group was in existence only from 1948 to 1955. Its members were Broadus Erle (1918-1977), Matthew Raimondi (whose dates I’ve not been able to ascertain), the experienced émigré violist Walter Trampler (1915-1997), and cellists Claus Adam (1917-1983) and David Soyer, born in 1923, and who died earlier this year (2010).

The performances are excellent throughout. The playing catches the pious intensity of the writing – see the Adagio introduction to the A minor – as well as the rapt intensity of the slow movements. So too they gauge the vehement quasi-Beethovenian writing of the same quartet’s finale, and the crisp resilience and rhythmic vitality of the opening of the E flat quartet. The playing is crisp, textures remaining clean, clear, orientated in the best post-war manner. Tonally well scaled, these Mendelssohn performances exude warmth but also precision.

If one found the Mendelssohn quartet locker curiously empty, the state of play with Boccherini was oddly not so bad. True, there was a lot of ground to cover, but we had already heard 78 recordings of the Op.1 No.2 by the Pascal, Op.33/5 by the Roth, and its opus mate Op.33 No.6 by a trio of groups; Kreiner, York (on Royale and hard to track down) as well as the Belardinelli. When it came to Op.6 No.1 we were spoilt for choice; New Italian, Rome, Poltronieri, and the ICBS. I know nothing about the last named. Of these groups it’s the New Italian, or rather the Quartetto Italiano, as it subsequently became known, that has exerted a strong hold on ‘historic’ performances of some of the Boccherini quartets. Nevertheless this New World, New Music survey of four of the works represented a real step forward, given that they set down three of the Op.58 set, and one of the Op.2 set into the bargain. They catch the lissomness of the writing, the affectionate nobility of it. Unanimity of attack is admirable, unison weight excellent. The zesty lines for Erle and for Trampler in the witty and energetic first movement of the brief two-movement Op.53 No. 1 are a real highpoint.

The LPs from which this transfer derives were clearly in fine condition. The PA engineering is top class as well, and we can listen with enthusiasm and admiration to these highly accomplished performances.

Jonathan Woolf





































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