SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MENDELSSOHN: Complete Chamber Music for Strings, Vol. 2 = String Quartet in D; in e; in f – Mandelring Q. – Audite

An exceptional release of near perfect complexion.

Published on February 28, 2013

MENDELSSOHN: Complete Chamber Music for Strings, Vol. 2 = String Quartet in D, Op. 44/1; in e, Op. 44/2; in f, Op. 80 – Mandelring Quartet – Audite multichannel SACD 92.657, 76:32 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Apparently we did not review the first of this new series, Volume 1 of quartets in E flat major Op. 12 and in A minor Op. 13 coupled with the early unnumbered E-flat major quartet. That one must be worth hearing if it is only a quarter as good as this one. This disc gives us three of the absolute best chamber works the composer ever created. The two Op. 44 pieces are actually listed in reverse, the D-major completed after the E-minor, though both occurring when the composer was 29. Each was conceived with violinist Ferdinand David in mind, a man whom Mendelssohn was to get appointed concertmaster of the noted Gewandhaus Orchestra. This is easily demonstrated by the soaring and blisteringly virtuosic first violin part, though Mendelssohn doesn’t rely only on this for effect, but integrates it into a seamless whole of unbelievable tightness of construction. The overwhelming power of the D-major is matched only by the relaxed and carefree manner of the E-minor, started when he was on his honeymoon.

The Opus 80 spins a much darker tale, the key itself, F-minor, being reserved for many composers (especially Brahms) as a signal for especial foreboding, if not outright despondent, emotional content. While Mendelssohn can never be accused of being desperate, even his sunny disposition was dampened upon the death of his beloved sister Fanny in 1847, an incident that definitely affected the mood of this seminal work, even if that is unusual for Mendelssohn. The composer himself was to last only three more months after he completed this work, a piece that reflects some of the most intricate and “Serioso” work of Beethoven. As a document of the “real” Mendelssohn, it almost stands alone in its nakedly revealing textures and emotional content.

The Mandelring play these works with an unencumbered authority that borders on the definitive. Coupled with the sensational sound that Audite provides, this becomes a disc to be acquired with some degree of urgency.

—Steven Ritter

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