Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Alban Berg Quartet, Gerhard Schulz, Gunter Pichler|
Mozart: 10 String Quartets
Overstated and Strident
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This Mozart is not easy on the ears. Whether entirely the fault of the recording engineer is a matter for debate. Sound is certainly immediate and piercing, the first violin occasionally strident on the many ffs in which the Alban Berg Quartet (ABQ) indulge. Personally, after a number of listenings, and with the best will in the world, I still cannot find a point of connection with the ABQ's interpretation here and the inward spirit of Mozart's music. Granted, the playing is technically impeccable, the ensemble polished to a gleam, as always; it cannot be denied that the Alban Berg are among the most finely tuned and well-oiled of the modern quartet machines. Here they are in overdrive. This sound slides only too effortlessly over the surface of work wrung from Mozart's heart with much hardship. Unfortunately for the ABQ, however, the iron criterion in choosing between performances of such familiar music must be, first and foremost, *musical insight*. Pervading all of these ten performances is a disconcerting sense of being in a hurry: as if the players are late for a luncheon appointment. If the steel-hard timbre of the instruments and the ensemble's robotic perfection were to one's taste, it might be possible to accommodate the sensibilities to the ABQ's skittering on toward the midday break. For me, they simply lack essential qualities like: variety of feeling, discourse between equals, interior warmth, tension, and relaxation. Disengaged intellectuality there is in abundance.In short, if you're fairly familiar with these Mozart quartets but not with the standard Alban Berg approach to music of the classical period, then these discs are definitely not for you. They will shed few sunbeams on any pre-existing Platonic ideals of the music already harbored by the mind. Conversely, if you're an ABQ devotee, then doubtless the content of this digital package -- recorded in Switzerland between 1987 and 1990 -- will be filled with serial delights. Approaching this miracle of Mozart's creativity for the very first time, hearing these particular CDs with any regularity will merely send you on your way through life in blissful ignorance of the underlying significance of the notes.The traditional benchmark for both the 'Haydn' and 'Prussian' set is, of course, the Amadeus Quartet as taped for DG in the 'sixties: excellently balanced, sensitive readings, by turns refined and emotional as the music demands. If you can find these, snap them up; I doubt you'll have the will to look further once you've heard the Amadeus. Totally satisfying. Amongst the new digital recordings on CD -- given that anything is preferable to the ABQ's disconnection on this set -- if you're on a budget, go for the Eder Quartet on Naxos - resonant in their Budapest church; otherwise the luminous analogue accounts by the Talich, now freshly issued in a complete edition of Mozart's quartets on Calliope. There are of course scores of other recordings of the same works to choose from -- as simply browsing these pages will reveal. The Chilingirian's Mozart quartet cycle comes near the top of my current shopping list.Bear in mind that these are just subjective impressions and recommendations -- following such advice through to final purchase and first listening at home can sometimes bring one up with a jolt. At least, so I have found once or twice to my cost after taking the bait from third-party reviews on these very pages: this version of the 'Haydn', 'Prussian', and 'Hoffmeister' Quartets is a case in point.Just in case the thrust of these paragraphs has been missed, it is only this: approach this recording with circumspection."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a marvellous album, and one of the best modern-instrument versions. The Berg go at this music with determination and passion and precision, and the result is often electifying. To my mind their playing is better here, and they are better recorded, than in their later albums for EMI (with the exception of their relatively recent Schubert albums). The recently released Quartetto Italiano album (Phillips) rivals this one for sheer joy; the Berg are lean and direct, the Italiano more sumptuous and relaxed--both are passionate and precise."
Something missing in these performances
Santa Fe Listener | 04/08/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Something is missing in these performances. For starters, it doesn't sound like Mozart to me. I never get the sense that the music is expressing human feelings, it doesn't breathe or unfold in any kind of organic or spontaneous sense. I'll keep listening and re-listening, but so far I have to say I've been disappointed with this set."