HAYDN: “Apponyi” Quartets Op. 71 – Prazak Quartet – Praga Digitals multichannel SACD PRD/DSD 250.289, 62:02 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
If you haven’t heard Haydn’s three Opus 71 string quartets, you are in for a treat. Composed at the height of his career, in the midst of the 60-year old composer’s London triumphs, including an amorous adventure and his last 12 great symphonies, Haydn used his chamber music to please a sophisticated audience who listened carefully to what he wrote, with whom he could share a joke musically, as in the frequent unexpected stops and starts that dot this music, and who must have delighted in the constant gentle challenges Haydn threw their way. As their infectious high energy and hi-jinks alternate with slow movements of long-lined radiant and an almost indecent intimacy, especially in open-stringed keys like D major, each of the three quartets plays its part in a good hour’s worth of sheer chamber music entertainment.
If you’re looking for an authentic, original-instrument-approach, take note that the Prazak bring the rich multi-textured sound and dramatic arch of modern-instrument power and finesse to the table, recorded in sound that becomes noticeably more transparent in SACD mode, allowing you to hear the bite of the bow on the string with startling clarity, even at lower volume levels.