Mendelssohn: Complete Chamber Music for Strings Vol. 1 - Mandelring Quartett
Classical - Chamber
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: String Quartet in E flat major Op. 12, String Quartet in A minor Op. 13, String Quartet in E flat major (1823)
Following their successful complete recording of the fifteen string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich, the Mandelring Quartett on audite now embark on their next extensive recording series: Mendelssohn - The Complete Chamber Music for Strings, including the Octet and the two Quintets (together with the Quartetto di Cremona and Gunter Teuffel), presented on four SACDs in total. The first volume of this new series features a youthful work by Mendelssohn as well as the early master works, Op. 13 and Op. 12.
Even if Felix Mendelssohn composed far fewer string quartets than Haydn, Beethoven or Schubert, they nonetheless embody a musical romanticism that appears in Novalis' Hymns and Eichendorff's Novellas: a whispering within nature, at times with dramatic agitation, permeated by deeply felt chants. And even the quartet in E flat major, written by the fourteen-year-old pupil of Carl Friedrich Zelter, the Berlin composer and consultant to Goethe, implies that Mendelssohn would imaginatively maintain the musical legacy.
This legacy had one name, first and foremost: Ludwig van Beethoven. Following his death in 1827, Mendelssohn composed his first mature quartet, Op. 13, which explores Beethoven's formal ideas but, entirely romantically, places the song "Ist es wahr?" at its centre. This work, as well as its successor, the quartet Op. 12 (the chronology of publication is the reason for the reverse numbering), proves to be formally highly advanced and reveals Mendelssohn as a sophisticated musical narrator - a facet which also attracted criticism from his contemporaries.
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Review by John Broggio - August 20, 2012
As the title indicates, this is the first volume in a projected cycle of all Mendelssohn's string chamber works (including the quintets and octet) to be presented on 4 discs.
The present volume includes the first two numbered quartets and closes with the early quartet completed when Mendelssohn was barely 14! As correctly mentioned in the notes, all three works pay tribute to Beethoven's contributions to the genre and there are many audible melodic devices employed that tip Mendelssohn's hat firmly in the direction of the older master. The playing is predictably fine, tempo choices always finding the right level of movement or stasis; this is perhaps is best illustrated by the second movement of Op. 12 where the Allegretto has just a delightful bounce before the "piu mosso" section takes wing in the best Midsummer Nights Dream mode. Especially in the slow movement of Op. 13, the whole ensemble get to demonstrate their ability to spin a lyrical line with ardour and restraint simultaneously & show little sympathy with many of the aesthetics of the HIP movement. This leads neatly to the one area that some may quibble about: the Mandelring's seating is unequivocally mid-C20 (vln 1 - v1n 2 - vla - vc; left to right) and some of the interplay between the two violin parts is inevitably downplayed. The observations of the dynamic markings are scrupulous and add greatly to the excitement as they seem to be able plumb ever greater tonal depths at either end of the dynamic spectrum. Perhaps most impressive of all is the respect shown by the Mandelring's for the unnumbered quartet of 1823, which although written some 2 years prior to the great octet shows the rapidly growing style of the young Mendelssohn. They play it with the same professionalism and joy that characterises their other performances.
Audite's sound is good; full yet clear with easy location of the players possible.
Recommended if one is not a die-hard HIP fan.
Copyright © 2012 John Broggio and HRAudio.net