MENDELSSOHN: String Quintets Nos. 1 in A; 2 in B-flat – Fine Art Quartet/ Danilo Rossi, viola – Naxos 8.570488, 70:23 ****:
What a joy to hear the Fine Arts Quartet back in stride! Certainly they rank as one of the best of the last hundred years, and almost always underrated. But there is no period instrument puffiness or strident adherence to dogma here; no sir, these are passionate, impassioned, and fervently lustful readings that cry damnation to all that get in their way. Actually, I don’t recall the Fine Arts ever sounding this violently tempestuous in any reading I can immediately bring to mind. Who cares—this one sings and soars with a free spirit and a dare-you-not-to-like-it attitude that is great fun to hear.
These two quintets are 19 years apart—the first penned when he was only 17 and writing things like the Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mendelssohn is a composer who seems fully formed from the womb—there is very little difference in the two works in terms of their style and general tone. Each has done well on record, with an old Marlboro release on Sony being a personal favorite, though there are plenty of newer recordings to compete. But this Naxos, recorded last year in Germany has as much pride and spirit as I can imagine, and certainly fares well considering the price. If you have not made the acquaintance of these works before, there is no excuse for not indulging now, and while they are not Mozart, they are interesting and rewarding, played immaculately and in fine sound.
— Steven Ritter