Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
String Quartet No.2 Op.13 in A major [28:30]
String Quartet No.6 Op.80 in F minor [25:00]
rec. Johanneskirche Köln-Klettenberg, 1-4 July 2009. Stereo. DDD
CPO 777 503-2 [53:39]
The Minguet Quartet combine precision with passion in this, the first volume
of their Mendelssohn quartet cycle on CPO. The 2nd and 6th
Quartets are given disciplined but dynamic performances, lively and engaging,
and without any excesses of dynamics or rubato.
The first movement of the 2nd Quartet provides an excellent demonstration
of the many musical virtues ahead. The adagio introduction is atmospheric, without
being overly slow, and the allegro that follows is given drive and energy by
crisp articulation and the sheer precision of the ensemble and tuning.
After hearing this recording and then going back to some of the great earlier
accounts, from the Berg and the Ysaÿe Quartets for example, it becomes
clear that the Minguet Quartet are presenting the music with the absolute minimum
of distraction. The way they shape the phrases is understated yet always clearly
defined. Their vibrato is almost imperceptible but contributes to the warmth
of their tone. And their approach to climaxes and dramatic development sections
is based on even pacing and precision, allowing them to give the music its full
dramatic weight while never compromising the elegance of their tone for the
sake of louder dynamics.
The ensemble has a tight, homogeneous sound, a product of the recording perhaps
as much as the playing. This means that when the melody is transferred to the
viola or cello it is as if a smooth transition has been effected from the violin
register down into the middle and bottom of the group. Lesser quartets might
be at risk of sounding monotonous in this acoustic environment, but the Minguet
players are never complacent about their textures and tone colours. Every movement
and phrase is given a subtly different shading.
Detail and pinpoint accuracy are not qualities usually associated with overtly
Romantic readings, yet this recording manages both. Mendelssohn moves between
dreamlike reveries and turbulent climaxes, and the Minguet players are fully
committed to expressing these moods at both extremes. Tempos are occasionally
faster than you might expect. That helps maintain the sense that the players
are not abandoning themselves to the moment and are keeping everything within
a tightly integrated structural framework. Some composers might suffer under
that level of control in performance, but for Mendelssohn it seems ideal.
Dreamlike reveries and turbulent climaxes yet we have detail and pinpoint accuracy.