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Haydn: String Quartets - Amsterdam String Quartet

Haydn: String Quartets - Amsterdam String Quartet

Channel Classics  CCS SA 25907

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Haydn: String Quartet in G minor Op. 20 No. 3, String Quartet in C major Op. 74 No. 1, String Quartet in G major Op. 76 No. 1

The Amsterdam String Quartet

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Review by John Miller - December 29, 2007

Haydn wrote his miraculous string quartets primarily for players, rather than listeners. They follow the best definition of chamber music as 'music for friends', and that is exactly how The Amsterdam String Quartet play them. Using period instruments or copies thereof, they let the music speak for itself, and at the same time discourse eagerly with one another, just as Haydn's Enlightenment ideals would suggest. Beauty of sound is uppermost, and one willingly foregoes the vibrato-laden sound of modern style for the clean, sweet sound of the gut strings and light classical bows, and their resiny overtones. The Quartet's internal balancing and sense of rapport is wonderful. I have rarely heard the cello part so clearly and beautifully integrated into the quartet texture, and its rich tone and deepest fundamentals are supported by an ideally warm acoustic. The players clearly enjoyed playing out into the space of their recording venue, a church in Deventer, Holland, as it adds so much to the sonorous and transparency beauty of their sound. Great praise must also go to the engineers for producing such a lifelike image of the quartet, placed just behind the speakers, with DSD capturing the precise way that each instrument interacts with the space about them.

The programme too is well-balanced, with a quartet from Haydn's early period, when he had just settled on his four movement form, and two fine ones from his maturity. They display his often earthy sense of humour, his lilting Viennese dances, radical surprises both in dynamics and quirky key changes, as well as both gravity and sadness (for example in the Adagio sostenuto of Op. 76 no.1). The players never seem to put a foot wrong; this is Haydn playing of the first order. The Amsterdam Quartet are to embark on a full survey of the Haydn Quartets in 2009, and I dare to hope Channel Classics will capture some more of their performances on SACD.

A must buy for Haydn lovers and chamber music enthusiasts. This is a disc which radiates happiness and humanity in equal measure; put it on the turntable and banish the cares of the world for an hour or so.

Copyright © 2007 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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