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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
String Quintet in G minor, K516 (1787) [35:58]
String Quintet in C minor, K406 (1782) [23:41]
Chilingirian Quartet: Levon Chilingirian & Charles Sewart (violins), Susie Mészáros (viola), Philip De Groote (cello); Yuko Inoue (viola)
rec. January/February, 2006, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK.
CRD 3522 [60:18]

This is the second in the Chilingirian’s three volume set of Mozart’s String Quintets (see review of Volume 3), consisting of the companion piece to K 515 – both masterpieces – and K 406, written five years earlier originally as a wind serenade. That genesis might explain why for some the variations in the concluding movement sound somewhat less compatible with the sonorities of a string quintet and as such are marginally anticlimactic, but the preceding three movements are indisputably sublime, especially the Andante, one of the loveliest and most lyrical Mozart ever wrote.

In accordance with the Sturm und Drang influence over this music, which, apart from that Andante, sounds far removed from the usual perfumed levity of a serenade, the Chilingirians adopt a dark, burnished tone, often employing minimal vibrato and emphasising the rich, buzzing properties of their instruments in their lower reaches. The opening movement is sombre, even tragic in mood, and the Menuetto is a sharp and brilliant formal canon with a stately Trio. The Variations in the finale are tense and driven; the ensemble’s style is invariably perfectly suited to the musical form and the over-arching atmosphere of the quintet as a whole.

The later work also opens in a dark and restless mode, constantly slithering and sliding into remote, disturbing musical regions before returning obsessively to the imploring main subject. The Allegretto is a melancholy minuet punctuated by stabbing chords suggestive of pain. The Adagio is played on muted instruments lending a strange, muffled grief to the music which is proleptic of the more anguished moments in Beethoven’s string quartets. The long, sinuous melodic line in the opening is succeeded by a downward sliding theme which intensifies the tragic ambiance; the music then stutters, halts and fragments before pulling itself together in a surprisingly cheerful, almost incongruous, interlude suggestive of resignation and acceptance; the same motif is pressed into service as a coda. The timing, phrasing and balance of the playing here is simply perfect. The second and final Adagio opens with a wailing, melancholy melody on the first violin over throbbing ostinato quavers and intermittent pizzicato accents, then three minutes in, the movement morphs abruptly into the Allegro of the finale proper, whereby the continuity of three quarter time is maintained, but now in a skipping, Haydnesque compound duple rhythm which makes passing reference to themes from the three preceding movements.

Once again, I commend Hugh Wood’s notes as a model of their kind in helping the listener to appreciate the context and content of these great works. I repeat here, too, the observation I made in my other reviews of CDs this series: while listening to the music I find myself so absorbed by the musicality of the end product that I forget to comment on, or even notice, the interpretative and technical mastery of the musicians here.

Ralph Moore



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