MOZART: String Quartets: K. 575 in D Major; K. 589 in B-flat Major; K. 590 in F Major “King of Prussia” Quartets — Tokyo String Quartet — Biddulph

by | Aug 31, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: String Quartets: K. 575 in D Major; K. 589 in B-flat Major; K. 590
in F Major “King of Prussia” Quartets — Tokyo String Quartet — Biddulph 80215-2  76:45 ****:

This has to be among the most musical CDs I have had the pleasure to
audition in some time. Recorded between May and November, 2004, and
played on a set of instruments made by Antonio Stradivarius (the
so-called “Paganini Quartet” after their original owner) on loan from
the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., the resultant sound is
both rich and authentic in every sense. The King of Prussia
quartets,1789-1790, represent some of Mozart’s facile and audacious
writing for the medium, with an especially expanded role for Freidrich
Wilhelm II’s own instrument, the cello. Here it is cellist Clive
Greensmith who intones masterfully on his 1736 Stradivari.

What strikes the listener as well as the musicologist about these three
quartets is the perfect balance Mozart achieved throughout the
textures, the fascinating concertante or paired distribution of parts.
For the opening Allegretto of K. 575 the first violin and cello
alternate in presenting the principle theme; in the latter two
quartets, the cello initiates the second themes. The viola holds forth
in the recapitulation of the opening Allegro moderato of K. 590. The
delicacy of figuration is no less another of Mozart’s miracles. The
tripping Menuetto of K. 575 prefigures much of Mendelssohn, although
the chromatic line will make Beethoven its heir. The middle section
plays the violin in antiphon against the cello with affecting lyricism.
For wayward chromaticism, try the Andante of the K. 590, which opens,
ostensibly, in C Major, but modulates to E-flat and ends in E Major. We
feel as though Mozart is savoring his power over the medium, daring the
ear with musical riddles and deliberate harmonic cul-de-sacs. As
always, an eerie, haunted beauty can evolve out of nowhere, as in the
opening cello melody of the Larghetto of K. 589.  Played with
tender, fastidious, and virtuoso sympathy by the Tokyo Quartet, these
late Mozart works seem enshrined in a recording that many may claim as
definitive.

–Gary Lemco

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