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Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20 Nos 4-6 - Chiaroscuro Quartet

Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20 Nos 4-6 - Chiaroscuro Quartet

BIS  BIS-2168

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Haydn: String Quartets Op. 20 Nos 4-6

Chiaroscuro Quartet:
Alina Ibragimova, Pablo Hernán Benedí (violins)
Emilie Hörnlund (viola)
Claire Thirion (cello)


The so-called ‘Sun’ quartets of Joseph Haydn’s Op. 20 are often said to represent an unprecedented flowering of his string quartet writing, establishing a high watermark to which every other subsequent composer of quartets has paid homage. The six quartets are not a monument of compositional rectitude or propriety, however –it is rather their flexibility, variety and unpredictability that make them so compelling. Every bar is full of a sense of musical adventure, a palpable feeling that Haydn is creating bridges between styles and ideas and forging a composite vision of four-part string writing that draws on every historical source that he knew as well as the furthest reaches of his musical imagination.

On this second instalment, the last three quartets of the set are performed by the Chiaroscuro Quartet, a highly international ensemble formed in 2005 by the violinists Alina Ibragimova (Russia) and Pablo Hernán Benedí(Spain), the Swedish violist Emilie Hörnlund and cellist Claire Thirion from France. Dubbed ‘a trailblazer for the authentic performance of High Classical chamber music’ in Gramophone, the quartet plays on gut strings, and the previous instalment was singled out as a recommended disc by The Strad, whose reviewer described its contents as ‘period-instrument performances of the utmost subtlety and refinement’.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 16, 2017

This second instalment concludes Haydn’s six string quartets Opus 20 and it is at least just as good as the previous one: Pure perfection, lovely sound, pure joy, what else?

The question most probably bubbling up in many a mind: ‘will all six eventually be issued in a double disc format?’ Or: ‘will there be other 6 packs to follow?’ As to the first question: Why wait if you can already now enjoy them all by buying the two separates. As to the second: So far many of Haydn’s string quartets are scattered over several releases of different labels, issued with pour sound quality (Op. 33 by the no longer existing Parkanyi String quartet on Praga Digitals), or as incomplete sets. It makes it all the more difficult to avoid overlaps. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if BIS were to continue with carefully selected further sets with the same forces? I’d very much hope so. The gut-stringed instruments add so much more vibrant sonority to the collected works of the King of String Quartets that it's almost a sin having to miss out on it.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2017 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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