This is handsomely produced with an extended, informative booklet essay by
David Doughty. It is housed in twelve cardboard sleeves with track and
details on the reverse of each. It can be greeted as yet another welcome
issue from the Brilliant label and it offers virtually all Mozart’s
music for strings in a handy “clamshell” box.
That enthusiastic reception must have one major caveat: as far as I am
the first two discs are useless and I shall not be playing them again.
are the two Duos and two Trios. Played here harshly and inexpressively
instruments with a minimum of vibrato or portamento, they make for dour
Comparison with a favourite double Philips Duo issue with the Grumiaux
and Arrigo Pellicia reveals them to be sadly inert. The suspended
come across plaintively on the instruments used here but the long melodic
sag and bulge and there is no sense of the rhapsody Grumiaux conveys. K266
a funereal parody of Grumiaux’s recording, with no inner life and
sense of phrasing. Under Grumiaux, the String Trio Divertimento sings; he
the opening descending octave and the music is all light and wit; here on
all is flat and muddy, the strings squall and whine. Oddly, K423 is played
what is presumably Baroque pitch, about a semitone down from modern pitch,
K424 as recorded is in a slightly flat modern B flat. The effect is
and the lack of brightness compounds the stolidity of the performances. As
final clincher, the Philips set offers the Six Preludes and Fugues for
Viola and Cello, K404a, not found on Brilliant. It’s a bargain
that belongs in the collection of every Mozart-lover.
Having comprehensively trashed those two first discs, I need to emphasise
the other ten offer nothing but sweetness and light. The twelve early
are beautifully played by the Sonare Quartet. They do not offer the
of Mozart’s mature works but they are insouciant, ebullient,
and often complex, with lots of flowing triple time and an increasingly
and assertive tone as Mozart progressively experiments with form. The
frequently mine a rich vein of sweet melancholy and there are surprising
of sombre reflection. There is much which is striking and substantial,
as the poise and gravity of the Adagio in K156 or the Allegro in K168,
its fugue, counterpoint, variations and proleptic lyricism. A bonus on CD9
the very early, slightly stilted but nonetheless elegant K80. The first
movements were written by a fourteen-year-old Mozart with an appreciably
confident Rondo added four years later. It is played expressively by the
Quartet in their only contribution to this set.
The mature quartets - the six Haydn Quartets and the four last
great works - are all played by the Franz Schubert Quartet.
I had not heard them before but I find them ideal: free, lyrical
and uninhibited with an exceptionally warm sound. While I admire
the restrained and refinement of the Guarneri, for example,
I marginally prefer the directness of the Franz Schubert to
distinguished competition from such as the Takács, Cleveland
or Eder Quartets. Despite their robust emotionalism they also
capture all the mystery and drama of the opening Allegro moderato
of No 15, employing heavy accents in a manner which is not perhaps
subtle but still very arresting. They find real propulsion and
urgency in the Andante of No. 16, possibly at the expense of
the more reflective mood others uncover and negotiate “The
Hunt” with both vivacity and grace. The “Dissonance”
will be a crucial test for many listeners and I find it to be
almost as fine as any I have heard, the still enigma of its
opening perhaps slightly compromised by the robustness inherent
in both the recorded sound and the quartet’s own style.
I find that the glamorous sound and slight reverberation given
to the Franz Schubert Quartet ideally suits their generous tone,
whereas too many other recordings sound flat by comparison;
it also particularly enhances their judicious application of
subtly graded dynamics - a virtue especially noticeable in K575.
The six Quintets are shared between the Chilingirian and the Orlando
each respectively accompanied by a distinguished, lady Japanese violist.
early K174, here given in both its first, abandoned form and in its final
proves to be a sophisticated work; the other five are indisputably late
Unusually, all the first movement repeats are played here but I do not
them tedious when Mozart’s eternally inventive themes are so
revisited. In K515, the Orlando Quartet fully justifies the inclusion of
repeat in the opening Allegro of the ascending octave first subject by
it to memorable effect on its second appearance, with more astringency
the Takács. They also differ from the Takács by opting to
the Menuetto third rather than second and manage to deliver the music with
free-flowing verve, whereas the Takács can sound simply rushed or
To take another example of the general “rightness” of these
the magical “con sordino” Adagio of K516 is wonderfully
The disappointing first two discs notwithstanding, this is an outstanding
for anyone wanting the complete quartets and quintets - and the Philips
set is easily acquired as an essential supplement.
Track listing & performance details
CD 1 [46:57]
Duo for Violin and Viola no 2 in B major, K 424
Duo for Violin and Viola no 1 in G major, K 423
Trio for 2 Violins and Double Bass in B flat major, K 266 (271f)
CD 2 [50:58]
Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello in E flat major, K 563
CD 3 [67:59]
Quartet for Strings no 2 in D major, K 155 (134a)
Quartet for Strings no 3 in G major, K 156 (134b)
Quartet for Strings no 4 in C major, K 157
Quartet for Strings no 5 in F major, K 158
Quartet for Strings no 6 in B flat major, K 159
Quartet for Strings no 7 in E flat major, K 160 (159a)
CD 4 [78:32]
Quartet for Strings no 8 in F major, K 168
Quartet for Strings no 9 in A major, K 169
Quartet for Strings no 10 in C major, K 170
Quartet for Strings no 11 in E flat major, K 171
Quartet for Strings no 12 in B flat major, K 172
Quartet for Strings no 13 in D minor, K 173
CD 5 [59:47]
Quartet for Strings no 14 in G major, K 387 "Spring"
Quartet for Strings no 15 in D minor, K 421 (417b)
CD 6 [57:42]
Quartet for Strings no 16 in E flat major, K 428 (421b)
Quartet for Strings no 17 in B flat major, K 458 "Hunt"
CD 7 [66:38]
Quartet for Strings no 18 in A major, K 464
Quartet for Strings no 19 in C major, K 465 "Dissonance"
CD 8 [53:43]
Quartet for Strings no 20 in D major, K 499 "Hoffmeister"
Quartet for Strings no 21 in D major, K 575
CD 9 [67:40]
Quartet for Strings no 22 in B flat major, K 589
Quartet for Strings no 23 in F major, K 590
Quartet for Strings no 1 in G major, K 80
CD 10 [59:09]
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 1 in B flat major, K 174
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 2 in C minor, K
CD 11 [71:15]
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 3 in C major, K 515
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 5 in D major, K 593
CD 12 [71:00]
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 4 in G minor, K 516
Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello no 6 in E flat major, K 614
Duos: Rémy Baudet (violin); Marten Boeken (viola); Trio:
Baudet (violin); Staas Swierstra (violin); Rainer Zipperling (cello). Rec.
2001, Maria Minor, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
François Fernandez (violin); Ryo Terakado (viola); Rainer
(cello). Rec. January 1991, Filosofisch Theologisch College van de
van Jezus V.Z.W Heverlee, Belgium.
Sonare Quartet: Jacek Klimkiewicz (violin I); Laurentius Bonitz (violin
Hideko Kobayashi (viola); Emil Klein (cello). Rec. July 1989, Orangerie,
(CD 3); 8-12 April, 1991, Zentralsaal, Bamberg, Germany (CD 4).
Franz Schubert Quartet of Vienna: Florian Zwiauer (violin I); Helge
(violin II); Hartmut Pascher (cello); Vincent Stadlmair (cello). Rec.
Concert Hall, Nimbus Foundation, Monmouth, UK.
CD 9 (K 80):
Sharon Quartet: Gil Sharon (violin I); Rodica Ciocoiu (violin II); Ron
(viola); Alexander Hülshoff (cello).
The Chilingirian Quartet: Levon Chilingirian (violin I); Charles
Stewart (violin II); Susie Mészáros (viola); Philip
De Groote (cello); with Yuko Inoue (cello). Rec. 8-10 November,
2005 (K174); 30 January - 1 February 2006 (K406), Potton Hall,
Westleton, Suffolk, UK.
Orlando Quartet: John Harding (violin I); Heinz Oberdorfer (violin II);
Erblich (viola); Stefan Metz (cello); with Nobuko Imai (viola). Rec. 11-13
1989, Oud Katholieke Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands.