This is volume 3 of CPO's edition of German composer Bernhard
Molique's string quartets. Volume 1, covering his op.18 nos.1
and 2, was released in 2006 and reviewed here.
Volume 2 (CPO 777 276-2) contained the final op.18 quartet and
op.28, which presumably leaves one final release devoted to
the last two quartets, opp.42 and 44. Other quartets have been
In his lifetime Molique was best known as a violinist. As a
composer he was self-taught and possibly for this reason did
not write a great deal of music. Apart from his string quartets
and one or two other chamber pieces, the bulk of his corpus
consists in a series of concertos, particularly the seven for
violin (one is labelled 'concertino'), but also one each for
cello, clarinet, flute, oboe and, unusually, a concertina. Molique's
style eschews the developments brought about by the Berlioz-Liszt
axis, remaining relatively conservative.
As far as his quartets are concerned, obvious influences are
Spohr, Mendelssohn and especially Beethoven (minus the chromaticism).
The two in this volume were published in Vienna as late as 1841,
but both are models of late Classicism. The First String
Quartet even goes as far as to sound like Haydn in places,
particularly in the minuet. The Andante non troppo third
movement is breathtaking in its subtly plaintive, end-of-summer
beauty, but all four movements add up to a stimulating, magnificently
crafted, very convincing whole. By all accounts Molique was
a musician of great seriousness, and despite the radiance, or
at least translucence, of these quartets, Molique plainly took
that earnestness into his composing career.
The Second String Quartet is even more of a tribute to
Molique's undoubted model, Beethoven, right from the opening
C minor chords of the assertive first movement. At fourteen
minutes, in length too the movement is redolent of the great
master. There is no idle note-spinning here, either - this is
intelligently structured, very well argued writing. As with
the First Quartet, it is in the delightful Andante third
movement that Molique's music is perhaps at its most expressive
and imaginative - more reminiscent now in its melodic intensity
of contemporary quartets by Mendelssohn - but once again there
really is no uninspired passage in the whole work. The dramatic
twists and pauses of the final movement are as close as Molique
gets to the spirit of Romanicism, only for the quartet to be
brought to a satisfying end by a presto coda.
Both these quartets deserve a place in the library of any collection
of 19th century chamber music. With justifiably considerable
enthusiasm for Molique's music, the Mannheim String Quartet
perform both works beautifully, with splendid intonation and
The CD booklet is informative, with an essay of decent length
on both Molique and these quartets, even if the translation
from the prolix German is slightly light-headed in places, occasionally
rambling. The studio recording is superb.