Bernhard MOLIQUE (1802-1869)
String Quartet no.1 in G, op.16 [34:17]
String Quartet no.2 in C minor, op.17 [40:39]
Mannheim String Quartet (Andreas Krecher (violin); Shinkyung Kim (violin); Niklas Schwarz (viola); Armin Fromm (cello))
rec. Chamber Music Studio, Südwestrundfunk, Stuttgart. 16-18 April, 2007. DDD
CPO 777 336-2 [75:14]

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 lost.

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 perception.

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.


With justifiably considerable enthusiasm the players perform both works beautifully, with splendid intonation and perception.