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Prussian Quartets nos. 4-6
String Quartet in C, B.334 (1786) [19:24]
String Quartet in A, B.335 (1786) [19:50]
String Quartet in E flat, B.336 (1786) [19:14]
Pleyel Quartett Köln (Ingeborg Scheerer (violin); Verena Schoneweg
(violin); Andreas Gerhardus (viola); Nicholas Selo (cello))
rec. Pauluskirche, Dellbrück, Cologne, 16-18 February 2010.
CPO 777 551-2 [58:44]
Although a fair bit of Austrian composer Ignaz Pleyel's music
is now available on CD, there is a long way to go before all
the String Quartets are recorded. The B numbers in the track-listing
refer to Rita Benton's thematic catalogue of Pleyel's works,
published in 1977. By her reckoning, there are an incredible
74 known String Quartets by Pleyel, plus a further six that
can double up as Flute Quartets, and another eight in which
Pleyel has cannily recycled some of his originals by adding
new movements. The grand total is significantly more even than
the "around sixty" indicated by the booklet notes.
As with Pleyel's 48 Symphonies, that number makes his a significant
contribution to the genre, all the more so considering the fact
that he wrote nearly all of them in the decade 1782-92. If that
is suggestive of a production-line mentality, then whilst it
is true that Pleyel did not blaze any musical trails, nor indeed
hesitate to chop and change movements to create 'new' works
for publishers, his music was extremely popular in his lifetime.
Above all this was because it was always extremely elegantly
crafted, melodious and imaginative, with an abundance of memorable
themes enhanced by surprising harmonic colourations and rhythmic
deviations. Pleyel's deep musical intelligence - undoubtedly
heightened by his exposure to Europe's finest minds through
his publishing house, which produced among other things a complete
edition of Haydn's own Quartets - takes the unequivocal mellifluousness
of these works way beyond mere crowd-pleasing functionality
into the realms of sophisticated artistry.
Besides the present CD, the Luigi Tomasini Quartet have recorded
op.11 1-3 on Hungaroton (HCD 32593, 2009), the American Ensō
Quartet have recorded B.307-312 across two releases for Naxos
half a dozen years ago (review,
The only other monograph seems to be the Pleyel Quartet Köln's
previous recording for CPO, of the 'Prussian' Quartets nos.7-9,
released in 2008 to considerable critical approbation (777 315-2).
That praise is sure to be repeated with this second volume,
where the attractive confidence, technical mastery and telepathic
ensemble playing that characterised the first disc is again
everywhere in evidence. All four players are given ample space
to shine by Pleyel's quite evenly-distributed parts, and none
disappoints. As a matter of fact, the PQK give as historically
authentic a performance as is possible here, by dint of consultation
of two early editions of the Quartets and their fine-sounding
period instruments, all originals from the 1700s. With luck,
the PQK will be persuaded by CPO to record in due course the
remaining six 'Prussian' Quartets - thus nicknamed, incidentally,
because they were dedicated to the King of Prussia.
Sound quality is very good. Microphones have been thoughtfully
placed so as not to pick up much breathing noise from the players.
There is one audible editing join, about halfway through the
E flat Quartet, but it is fairly unobtrusive and in general
production values are set to high.
The booklet notes by Klaus Aringer are informative and scholarly,
although when it comes to a discussion of the music, Aringer
does show a tendency towards technical detail. The translation
is reasonably good. Incidentally, Pleyel's talent as a composer
also rubbed off on his son Camille, a fine disc of whose piano
music appeared last year on Gramola - see review.
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