One can hardly imagine these works being given a more sympathetic reading.
There’s something about a string Quintet that I’ve always found far more appealing than a Quartet. While many composers thrive on the economy of means that a quartet necessitates, they can also be inspired to special heights by the extra layer that a quintet supplies. That extra instrument makes all the difference. I’d far rather listen to Mozart’s great string quintets than his quartets, and Schubert’s quintet is perhaps the greatest work of chamber music ever composed. So it was with a positive predisposition that I turned to this Mendelssohn disc, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Nineteen years separate these two works. The firstRead more quintet was written when Mendelssohn was only 17, the same year in which he produced his Midsummer Night’s Dream overture, while the second dates from the last year of his life. The difference in style is fairly evident. No. 1 is full of youthful exuberance, though still combined with breathtaking artistry, while No. 2 is more thoughtful and restrained.
The first quintet, for some reason given second on this disc, is unremittingly sunny, from the pastoral first movement, through the affectionate intermezzo and busy scherzo to the playful finale. The second, on the other hand, is more subtle and nuanced. The first movement’s first subject on the violin takes off in a typical "flying" theme while the others provide busy momentum which propels the music forward to its sunny conclusion. The second movement is a quirky (parody?) minuet, while the third is a funereal piece of sombre majesty, and the finale is a sparkling vivace. As an additional bonus we are given the original second movement (Minuet) of the first quintet: the current one is a replacement written as a memorial to Mendelssohn’s friend, the violinist Eduard Rietz, to whom the Octet had been dedicated.
The performances from the Fine Arts Quartet are ideally suited to this kind of music. They tailor their sound perfectly to the very different demands of each movement and carry off the technical issues flawlessly: listen to the skilful double-stopping at the end of the first quintet’s first movement. At no stage, however, does the music sound academic or pushed: the musicians work together as an integrated unit and listen to each other to "gel" seamlessly. I get the feeling that they really enjoyed making this disc. The Naxos sound is close in a warm acoustic, quite fitting for this music.
So unfamiliar as this repertoire is, it repays the effort in getting to know it, and one can hardly imagine these works being given a more sympathetic reading.
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Quintet for Strings no 1 in A major, Op. 18by Felix Mendelssohn
Danilo Rossi (Viola)
Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Romantic Written: 1826/1832; Germany
Quintet for Strings no 2 in B flat major, Op. 87by Felix Mendelssohn
Danilo Rossi (Viola)
Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Romantic Written: 1845; Germany
String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87: I. Allegro vivace
String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87: II. Andante scherzando
String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87: III. Adagio e lento
String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87: IV. Allegro molto vivace
String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18: I. Allegro con moto
String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18: II. Intermezzo: Andante sostenuto
String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18: III. Scherzo: Allegro di molto
String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18: IV. Allegro vivace
String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18: II. Minuetto (1st version)
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Good introduction to Mendelssohn's chamber musicFebruary 18, 2013By James T. (Voorhees, NJ)See All My Reviews"For the past couple of years I've listened to a lot of chamber music. While I love string quartet music, I also like the fuller sound of more instruments. These two quintets, written when when he was 17 (No. 1) and at age 36 (No. 2) are apparently very similar in style; both express joy, perhaps the second one a little reservedly. The digital recording does seem a little bright at times, but Naxos did a good job. I bought the CD after hearing the Parker Quartet, with Kim Kashkashian guesting on viola, perform the second quintet in Philadelphia on January 11, 2013. Recommended."Report Abuse
Dazzled EarsApril 1, 2012By Robert L. (Springfield, OH)See All My Reviews"This recording strikes me as overbright to the point, at times, of shrillness. The opening of the second quintet illustrates my point. Moreover, the Hausmusik CD set shows that there is more in these quintets than is presented on this Naxos CD."Report Abuse