Mozart: Chamber Music For Strings

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Mozart's genius can often be perceived most clearly in the technical experimentation and expressive breadth of his chamber works; this 12-disc box set of his complete string duos, trios, quartets and quintets places this genius and skill in the spotlight, offering a comprehensive overview of some of the Classical era's greatest masterpieces.

In these works -- which span Mozart's career, from the K80 quartet that he composed as a 14-year-old prodigy to the K590 quartet, which dates from the year before his death -- listeners will find a wealth of inventive techniques: variations, canonic and fugal writing, operatic melodies, graceful slow movements, playful changes in character and moments of musical drama are all present. Highlights include the six 'Haydn' quartets, which Mozart dedicated to his mentor, pieces of refined beauty and sophisticated technical skill. In particular, the progressive musical language of the famous 'Dissonance' quartet (K465) seems to foreshadow Romanticism, while the evocative 'Hunt' quartet (K458) is one of Mozart's most popular. The achievements of the String Quartets are extended in the six String Quintets, while the expansive String Trio Divertimento and comparatively rare String Duos are also included.

Featuring superb performances by acclaimed ensembles and instrumentalists, this collection is a fantastic way to delve deeper into Mozart's works for string ensemble. With over 12 hours of music, this box set will be a worthwhile addition to any music lover's library.

Other information:
- Recordings made in 1989--2006.
- Includes booklet notes about each work.
- For the first time complete in one set: the works for string ensemble by Mozart.
- Ranging from the duos for violin and viola to the magnificent string quintets, these works show Mozart's genius in ensemble writing, finding the perfect balance of harmony and counterpoint, while expressing the whole gamut of human emotions, from debonair gaiety to dark despair.
- Excellent performances by leading string ensembles, such as the Chilingirian Quartet, the Orlando Quartet and the Franz Schubert Quartet of Vienna.

R E V I E W:

"This is handsomely produced with an extended, informative booklet essay by Dr David Doughty. It is housed in twelve cardboard sleeves with track and recording details on the reverse of each. It can be greeted as yet another welcome bargain issue from the Brilliant label and it offers virtually all Mozart’s chamber music for strings in a handy “clamshell” box.
The twelve early quartets are beautifully played by the Sonare Quartet. They do not offer the profundity of Mozart’s mature works but they are insouciant, ebullient, inventive and often complex, with lots of flowing triple time and an increasingly confident and assertive tone as Mozart progressively experiments with form. The Andantes frequently mine a rich vein of sweet melancholy and there are surprising moments of sombre reflection. There is much which is striking and substantial, such as the poise and gravity of the Adagio in K156 or the Allegro in K168, with its fugue, counterpoint, variations and proleptic lyricism. A bonus on CD9 is the very early, slightly stilted but nonetheless elegant K80. The first three movements were written by a fourteen-year-old Mozart with an appreciably more confident Rondo added four years later. It is played expressively by the Sharon Quartet in their only contribution to this set.
The mature quartets - the six Haydn Quartets and the four last great works - are all played by the Franz Schubert Quartet. I had not heard them before but I find them ideal: free, lyrical and uninhibited with an exceptionally warm sound. While I admire the restrained and refinement of the Guarneri, for example, I marginally prefer the directness of the Franz Schubert to distinguished competition from such as the Takács, Cleveland or Eder Quartets. Despite their robust emotionalism they also capture all the mystery and drama of the opening Allegro moderato of No 15, employing heavy accents in a manner which is not perhaps subtle but still very arresting. They find real propulsion and urgency in the Andante of No. 16, possibly at the expense of the more reflective mood others uncover and negotiate “The Hunt” with both vivacity and grace. The “Dissonance” will be a crucial test for many listeners and I find it to be almost as fine as any I have heard, the still enigma of its opening perhaps slightly compromised by the robustness inherent in both the recorded sound and the quartet’s own style. I find that the glamorous sound and slight reverberation given to the Franz Schubert Quartet ideally suits their generous tone, whereas too many other recordings sound flat by comparison; it also particularly enhances their judicious application of subtly graded dynamics - a virtue especially noticeable in K575.
The six Quintets are shared between the Chilingirian and the Orlando Quartets each respectively accompanied by a distinguished, lady Japanese violist. The early K174, here given in both its first, abandoned form and in its final version, proves to be a sophisticated work; the other five are indisputably late masterpieces.
Unusually, all the first movement repeats are played here but I do not find them tedious when Mozart’s eternally inventive themes are so expressively revisited. In K515, the Orlando Quartet fully justifies the inclusion of the repeat in the opening Allegro of the ascending octave first subject by playing it to memorable effect on its second appearance, with more astringency than the Takács. They also differ from the Takács by opting to put the Menuetto third rather than second and manage to deliver the music with more free-flowing verve, whereas the Takács can sound simply rushed or hard-driven. To take another example of the general “rightness” of these performances, the magical “con sordino” Adagio of K516 is wonderfully plangent and soulful.
[T]his is an outstanding bargain for anyone wanting the complete quartets and quintets."  

-- Ralph Moore , MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: BRI94370

  • UPC: 5028421943701

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Chilingirian String Quartet, Franz Schubert String Quartet, Orlando String Quartet, Sharon String Quartet, Sonare Quartet Frankfurt

  • Performer: Alexander Hülshoff, Emil Klein, Ferdinand Erblich, Florian Zwiauer, François Fernandez, Gil Sharon, Hartmut Pascher, Heinz Oberdorfer, Helge Rosenkranz, Hideko Kobayashi, Jacek Klimkiewicz, John Harding, Laurentius Bonitz, Marius Nichiteanu, Marten Boeken, Nobuko Imai, Rainer Zipperling, Remy Baudet, Rodica-Daniela Ciocoiu, Ron Ephrat, Ruxandra Constantinovici, Ryo Terakado, Staas Swierstra, Stefan Metz, Vincent Stadlmair, Yuko Inoue