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REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
String Quintet in D major, K593
String Quintet in E flat major, K614
Fragment in A minor for String Quintet, K515c
String Quintet in D major, K593 (alternative Finale)
Chilingirian Quartet (Levon Chilingirian & Charles Sewart (violins), Susie Mészáros (viola), Philip De Groote (cello)) Yuko Inoue (viola)
rec. June 2006, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK.
CRD 3523 [61:12]

This recording of two great Mozart string quintets is the third volume in this series made for the CRD label by the Chilingirians augmented by the distinguished violist Yuko Inoue. As bonuses, we are given the brief K515c fragment of only 72 bars and the alternative ending to K593, not what Mozart originally wrote but the version published posthumously in 1793, whereby somebody in the firm Artaria altered the initial figure from a downward slide to a “zigzag” form. Thus the listener may decide which is better: Mozart’s own first thoughts or the publisher’s “improved” version.

There is little point in my attempting to elucidate the nuances and pleasures of the playing here beyond asserting that I cannot fault it or imagine it being done better. The jauntiness of the opening movement of K593 is perfectly judged and the soaring lyricism of the ensuing Adagio with its adventurous modulations and discords is a thing of beauty. The Menuetto is deceptively simple and typically insouciant; the vibrant Finale is surely preferable with the original, chromatic “falling fifth” motif than the emended version, whose “up and down” variation of the main theme is marginally more conventional and in any case is not sustained throughout, as the original figure re-appears.

The first movement of K614 is wonderfully sharp, energised and good-humoured. The stately Andante is spacious and elegant, although the witty, precise playing of the Menuetto and the sprightly Finale cannot quite disguise their somewhat more conventional content in a Quintet which, for that reason, has never enjoyed the same regard as the other five.

The fragment is strange and unsettling, creating an intriguingly ambiguous mood, juxtaposing two very different subjects, the first on the lead violin being twisting and labyrinthine with a very spare accompaniment, the second apparently promising consolation but veering off into unexpected byways before being abandoned in mid-progress for reasons we shall never know.

As this issue does not indicate recording dates I requested that information from CRD and immediately received the helpful reply that all three volumes of the string quintets were recorded between November 2005 and June 2006, but that the appearance of this last instalment was delayed owing to various problems including health issues. We must grateful that those obstacles have been overcome.

The sound here is wonderful: full, rich, vibrant, very immediate and beautifully balanced. A scholarly, informative and entertaining essay by Hugh Wood, in which he proves a perceptive and stimulating guide to the listener, completes a wholly satisfying issue.

Ralph Moore

 

 




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