BBC Music Magazine - - Chamber -

String Quar­tets, Vol. 1:

No. 1 in E flat, Op. 12; No. 5 in E flat, Op. 44/3; No. 6 in F mi­nor, Op. 80 Doric String Quar­tet

Chan­dos CHAN 20122 86:35 mins (2 discs) These quar­tets chart Men­delssohn’s progress from the ebul­lient young prodigy, through his ma­tu­rity, to the bit­ter­ness of his fi­nal year. As Bayan North­cott’s ex­cel­lent notes sug­gest, the shadow of Beethoven is of­ten in the back­ground, and the Doric en­ter the first move­ment of the Op. 12 Quar­tet with as­sur­ance in that mu­si­cal world. There is con­fi­dence and una­nim­ity of ap­proach to dy­nam­ics, tone, vi­brato and ru­bato; and the change of style to the more el­e­gantly Men­delssoh­nian ‘Can­zonetta’ is ef­fort­lessly made. The nat­u­ral­ness of the play­ing is matched by the com­pre­hen­sive Chan­dos sound: not too dis­tant, and with ex­actly the right amount of res­o­nance.

The fi­nale’s mi­nor-key flavour and danc­ing rhythm pre­fig­ures the fi­nale of the Ital­ian Sym­phony, and also the vi­o­lence of the first move­ment of the F mi­nor Quar­tet, aptly placed on the same disc.

There could be more edge to the per­for­mance here, es­pe­cially at the start, and at times in the fi­nale: this is Men­delssohn keen­ing over the death of his sis­ter Fanny. The rest­less scherzo, with its un­set­tling cross-rhythms, gets back into the groove though, and the Ada­gio treads the right line be­tween feel­ing and sen­ti­men­tal­ity.

Op. 44/3 is the long­est of the quar­tets, and the outer move­ments can some­times come across as pro­lix. The Doric’s per­for­mance steers clear of this trap – again through the con­trolled va­ri­ety and technical ease of their mu­sic­mak­ing – as well as trip­ping the light fan­tas­tic in the scherzo, and lay­ing bare the emo­tional am­bi­gu­ity of the Ada­gio. I look for­ward to Vol­ume 2. Martin Cot­ton



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