Mozart: Quartet & Quintets - Kuijken String Quartet

Mozart: Quartet & Quintets - Kuijken String Quartet

Challenge Classics  SACC 72145

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Mozart: Quintet for clarinet, 2 violins, viola and cello in A major KV 581, Quintet for horn, violin, 2 violas and cello in E-flat major KV 407, Quartet for oboe, violin, viola and cello in F major KV 370

Kuijken String Quartet:
Sigiswald Kuijken, François Fernandez (violin)
Marleen Thiers (viola)
Wieland Kuijken (cello)

Lorenzo Coppola (clarinet)
Pierre-Yves Madeuf (horn)
Patrick Beaugiraud (oboe)

The Kuijken String Quartet has already exists almost twenty years. It is composed of Sigiswald Kuijken and François Fernandez (violins), Marleen Thiers (viola) and Wieland Kuijken (cello), who above all are dedicated to interpreting the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart. The members of the quartet, who are also recognized soloists internationally, make up an ensemble, which can play these recordings in a way that practically no other can. Tours through Europe, Australia, Japan and USA testify to the international success of the Kujken String Quartet.


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Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - November 27, 2009

The very first notes on this disc transport the listener to a late C18th drawing room, perhaps Mozart's own, for evening entertainment. Kuijken's String Quartet and guest soloists present us with the very essence of the composer's Enlightenment ideals of rational discourse expressed in musical terms. The quartet's period instruments (or copies thereof) provide an intimate sound of great refinement and delicacy, perfectly captured by Northstar in their superbly focussed recording for Challenge, which places the instrumentalists clearly in one's listening room with all the frisson-making subtle dynamic detail of bow on gut strings.

For Mozart, the E flat clarinet (a late developer in the woodwind family) was an instrument connected with his Masonic beliefs. Its key signature of three flats and the three crosses in the Quintet's key signature of A major (the clarinet is a transposing instrument) were deeply symbolic for him, and he wrote the Quintet KV 581 and the Clarinet Concerto KV 622 with special warmth and affection for his friend and brother Mason Anton Stadler, one of the pioneers in clarinet development.

The later stages of the instrument's evolutiont involved shortening and simplification; many notes and whole phrases of Mozart's autograph scores cannot be played on modern instruments without being transposed upwards an octave, thus disrupting lines. Lorenzo Coppola here uses a copy of a clarinetto d'amore of 1788, and one can delight in its dark, liquid low chalumeau range, especially noteworthy in the quintet's finale. The early clarinets do have rather more action noise than modern ones, but the Northstar engineers have not spotlighted the soloist, and the ear soon accepts and ignores most of the clicks. Mozart ensures that the string quartet is not overshadowed by the wind player but that its dialogue and interchange is one of equals. For their part, the players are wonderfully relaxed and responsive, allowing the music to speak for its eloquent self without undue Romantic gestures. There is much to admire and enjoy in this intimate and transparent performance, a winning combination of human warmth, genteel wit and smiling lyricism.

The unusual Quintet for horn and strings KV 407 was written around 1782 for another of Mozart's friends, Ignaz Leitgeb, cheese-seller and expert on the valveless horn, who invariably caused much mirth in the Mozart household. Scored for violin, two violas and cello for better support of the more powerful tone of the hunting horn, the high-spirited piece brings rusticism into the drawing room to brilliant effect. No doubt Mozart himself would have taken one of the viola parts; his favourite position was inside the music.

Pierre-Yves Madeuf manages his early C19th horn magnificently, showing its characteristically different tonal qualities across the range, and providing distinctive hand-stopped notes with their covered sound, which were used by Mozart for melodic highlighting. The engineers have bravely accepted the challenge of combining the intimate sound of four stringed instruments with an instrument designed for calling hunters through dense forest, achieving a seamless balance.

Capping the entertainment is the Oboe Quartet KV 370, written in 1781 for Friedrich Ramm, first oboist in the Elector of Bavaria's court orchestra. The 25 year old composer was here discovering the intimacy of chamber music, rather than its concertante display functions. Voices are integrated in discourse, with interweaving of melody and counter-melody, and Mozart's favourite aspect of the oboe, its high register, is fully exploited. Patrick Beaugiraud's playing is lithe and lively on his plangent copy of a Dresden oboe of 1790. The quartet has an emotionally restrained aria of only 38 bars, and in the rondeau Mozart teases both players and listeners with a section where the oboe plays in 4/4 time while the strings accompany in 6/8.

Provided you are not averse to music played superbly well on attractive-sounding period instruments, this is an elegant and illuminating entertainment which refreshes both mind and soul, as it was meant to.

Copyright © 2009 John Miller and


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