Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
String Quintet No. 3 in C, K. 515 [31:06] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
String Quintet No. 2 in G, Op. 111 [29:04]
Quatuor Voce, Lise Berthaud (viola)
rec. 19-23 January, 2015, La Ferme de Villefavard, Limousin, France ALPHA 214 [60:10]
This CD is pure pleasure. The string quintets by Mozart and Brahms are divine, of course, and these five young(ish) French musicians treat the music with grace and wit. The Mozart performance feels light and airy. As I write this sentence, the first day of spring has arrived in Texas, and my windows are open, a gentle cool breeze brushing against my legs. The Mozart is playing and it feels like a perfect marriage of the music to the moment, the gentle voices of Quatuor Voce and the voices of spring. The players may be unusually laid-back in the minuet, but the result is natural and generous music-making. This is Mozart at his least troubled and most cheery.
The booklet notes, co-written by the quartet, suggest that the Mozart and Brahms quintets seem “almost twinned, both of them characterized by profound enthusiasm,” which is why they make an attractive pairing on disc. The first movement of Quintet No. 2 is, certainly, one of Brahms’s most joyous pieces, especially among his late works. Here cellist Lydia Shelley really gets to show off her expressive range. As with the Mozart work, the minuet-like movement (un poco allegretto) allows the Quatuor Voce and Lise Berthaud demonstrate their natural grace and poise.
Outstanding recorded sound completes the package: Alpha’s presentation is always a plus.. There’s a photograph of the venue in the booklet, and it appears to be a beautiful wood-paneled countryside chamber music space, not unlike the concert hall at Aldeburgh.
There are many dozens of recordings of each of these works. I have my favorites, and surely you do too. But one has to respect playing as good as this, and the sound quality is exemplary. The bottom line is, when the total package is such a pleasure, comparisons are meaningless.