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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
String Quintet in B flat, K174
String Quintet in C, K515
String Quintet in B flat, K174 (Menuetto & Allegro; first abandoned versions)
Chilingirian Quartet (Levon Chilingirian & Charles Sewart (violins), Susie Mészáros (viola), Philip de Groote (cello)), Yuko Inoue (viola)
rec. 8-10 November, 2005, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK.
CRD 3521 [72:36]

This is the first of the three volumes of their survey of Mozart’s string quintets by the Chilingirian Quartet, supplemented by the eminent violist Yuko Inoue. As well as recording the six complete works, they included fragments and alternative or abandoned versions of movements, such as those provided for K 174 here, permitting the listener to judge, which are better.

The earlier work, written when Mozart was just seventeen, is thoroughly likeable and enjoyable, without being especially profound. It already features the frequent, expressive dialogues between the lead violin and viola, which became the hallmark of Mozart’s writing in this genre and reflects his own proficiency on the latter instrument. The opening movement has a lovely, warm sonority with some beautifully timed pregnant pauses before minor key passages, suggestive of a faint foreboding. The Adagio is again predominately dark in timbre with some elegantly executed arpeggios and ornamentations. The first version of the Menuetto is a rather obvious, repetitious and stiff-legged waltz, whose development is overlong and is succeeded by a stuttering Allegretto trio which is essentially a reprise of the main subject and thus lacking in contrast; the revised version is preferable in that a skipping trio is sandwiched between the main Menuetto theme and its repeat. However, my preference in the two versions of the finale is for the first: it gives greater prominence to the viola, which leads and is echoed by the first violin. The scurrying semiquavers punctuated by emphatic chords thus have a darker texture and the viola’s line is musically more complex and interesting, a feature enhanced by the momentary pauses in the propulsive moto perpetuo of the movement – but the whole point of this recording is that the listener may select the programme as s/he sees fit.

K 515 is the great twin of K 516, which is found in the second volume of this series; it is obviously a bigger, bolder and more mature work, which takes some surprising turns in its harmonies, melodies and key relationships. The Allegro opens with a sinuous, serpentine tune in the first violin, which is of course then echoed by the viola, and creates an atmosphere of tense expectation and apprehension. The quintet here plays those long paragraphs of melody full out in big, sweeping waves of sound with ample tone. The Menuetto opens with another echoed and arpeggiated tune, very gracefully played here; especially appealing is the lilting waltz fragment in the Trio. The typically vocal quality of Mozart’s writing is most apparent in the Andante, which is a spiralling duet between the soprano and mezzo registers of the two lead instruments, their intertwining underpinned by a bass commentary from the cello and a chorus from the ensemble; delightful. The Allegro finale sports a catchy little tune, interrupted by melancholy flashes, before returning to Mozart’s default position of sunny security, despite the travails of his private life.

I have made little comment on the artistic, interpretative quality of the playing here as I find that it is uniformly superlative throughout all three volumes, as is the first rate sound.

Ralph Moore


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