Pleyel: String Quartets Op 2 No 1-3 / Enso Quartet

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These three quartets appeared in 1784 with a dedication to Haydn, around the same time that Mozart was completing his set similarly in homage to...
These three quartets appeared in 1784 with a dedication to Haydn, around the same time that Mozart was completing his set similarly in homage to the father of the string quartet. Mozart evidently knew these works and enjoyed them, but they are quite different in tone and technique from either Haydn or his young friend. Each piece has three movements, and there is no set rule as to what the character of each movement will be. For example, No. 3 (in G minor) begins with a slow movement, while No. 1 ends with a minuet. Their general character is lighter in substance than Haydn's Opp. 20 or 33, and worlds apart from Mozart's six avowedly serious and large-scale "Haydn" quartets. Still, the music is tuneful, well written, and quite enjoyable. Pleyel was perhaps Haydn's most talented pupil before Beethoven, and if he often seems to be copying his model in the cut of his themes, then he certainly chose a good model and was a skillful imitator.

Naxos is, in truth, doing music lovers a real favor in making so much music of the Classical period available on disc, and not just because the label is rescuing many fine works that collectors will enjoy. What these quartets show, for example, is that the large-scale, four-movement format that we now regard as standard thanks to Haydn (from Op. 9 on in his quartets), and later Mozart, was by no means the inviolable rule at the time. It's really quite remarkable just how much larger in scale and more emotionally generous in scope the music of this first great triumvirate of classical composers was, as compared to their contemporaries. This is less of a revelation with Beethoven and Mozart, whose depth is now taken for granted, than it is with Haydn, whose achievement is still often undervalued and misunderstood.

In any case, the Enso Quartet plays with great confidence and verve, not to mention excellent rhythm and admirably accurate intonation. This is good music, and in these performances the players have you believing in its quality at every point. Their powerful attack on the highly "Sturm und Drang" G minor quartet is particularly impressive. It's perhaps the most interesting work in the set, with a curious "Grazioso" finale that remains in the minor right up to the end. The sonics are also quite warm and very present. The remaining three quartets in Op. 2 also will be recorded by these players for Naxos, and I look forward to hearing them. Strongly recommended.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: December 13, 2005

  • UPC: 747313249626

  • Catalog Number: 8557496

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Ignace Joseph Pleyel

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Enso String Quartet