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Mozart: Early String Quartets / Cuarteto Casals


Release Date: 12/13/2005 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 987060   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Arnau Tomąs RealpJonathan BrownVera Martinez-MehnerAbel Tomąs Realp
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 38 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





From Harmonia Mundi Spain comes this exquisitely produced three-disc set of Mozart?s extant early string quartets. Included are the three divertimentos, K 136?138, more likely to be familiar in their string orchestra settings. The 16 numbered works that comprise this collection can actually be divided into a number of distinct groupings. The earliest among them stands in much the same relationship to the Haydn string quartet model as does the early Classical three-movement Italian sinfonia to the Austro-Hungarian-German four-movement Haydn symphony model. If Haydn was the father of the modern symphony, as he has often been called, he was also the Read more father of the modern string quartet.


All but one of Mozart?s early quartets, up to 1773, are of a three-movement, fast-slow-fast construction. Interestingly, it is the earliest of them, the K 80 from 1770, that is in four movements, but it is of a slow-fast-minuet-rondo progression that is transitional between rococo and Classical styles.


The three Salzburg divertimentos come from 1772, and are a category unto themselves. Divertimento is a misnomer, according to Alfred Einstein, and almost certainly not Mozart?s labeling, ?for a divertimento should have two minuets, and these three works have no minuets at all. They are simply symphonies for strings alone, without oboes and horns.?


En route to Milan in 1772, Mozart paused long enough in Verona to compose the stand-alone K 155. Over the next few months (late 1772 through mid 1773) in Milan, he would compose the so-called Milanese group of quartets, K 156?160. Towards the latter part of that same year in Vienna the 17-year-old Mozart experienced his coming-of-age, when he heard Haydn?s op. 20 ?Sun Quartets.? Throughout the remainder of 1773, Mozart would produce the final six Viennese quartets, K 168?173, that complete his early explorations of the genre. Suddenly, as if overnight, the quartets are now in four movements, weightier in content, and significantly longer. K 387, Mozart?s next quartet, the fully mature and first of the six so-called ?Haydn? quartets, was but a blink away.


The Cuarteto Casals was founded in Madrid in 1997, and in short order has risen in the ranks of string quartet ensembles to one of the world?s most highly acclaimed groups, winning the Yehudi Menuhin First Prize at London?s International String Quartet Competition (2000) and First Prize at the Johannes Brahms International String Quartet Competition in Hamburg (2002). Listening to these CDs, it is easy to hear why. I cannot sing the Cuartet Casals?s praises too highly. Their playing has a laser-sharp clarity and focus that resembles the very best of period-instruments practices adapted to modern instruments; and, at the same time they project a heart-melting sweetness of tone that is totally devoid of any astringency or harshness.


I thought at first it might be difficult to listen to all three discs in one sitting?after all, let?s be honest, these are not among Mozart?s greatest works?but I was so captivated by these performances that before I knew it I had played through the whole set, and still wanted more. This definitely supercedes two of the three sets I have, two of which I do not even find listed any longer. The Quartetto Italiano (still listed, but available only in an eight-CD Philips box of the complete quartets) plays sumptuously, but truth be told, they are not very stylish. A three-disc set with the Hagen Quartet covers exactly the same territory as this new Harmonia Mundi release, but it may only be available as a special import; besides, the Hagen tends to be a bit idiosyncratic and for many is an acquired taste. That leaves my set on six CDs of the complete quartets, with the American String Quartet playing a set of matched Stradivari instruments on the Music Masters label, another entry I find no longer listed. This one I?d rate as equal to the Cuarteto Casals, but there?s not much point in recommending it if it?s not available. Besides, it includes all of the quartets beyond the early ones offered here.


Unfortunately, the Harmonia Mundi represents a substantial monetary outlay for a collection of works that is apt to have a more limited appeal than Mozart?s later, fully mature string quartets. But for those who love beautiful quartet-playing as much as I do, this set will pay for itself in musical dividends many times over.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quartet for Strings no 1 in G major, K 80 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1770; Lodi, Italy 
Length: 17 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
2.
Divertimento for String Quartet in D major, K 136 (125a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 16 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
3.
Divertimento for String Quartet in B flat major, K 137 (125b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 12 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
4.
Divertimento for String Quartet in F major, K 138 (125c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 12 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
5.
Quartet for Strings no 2 in D major, K 155 (134a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Jonathan Brown (Viola),
Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Bolzano, Italy 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
6.
Quartet for Strings no 3 in G major, K 156 (134b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Milan, Italy 
Length: 12 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
7.
Quartet for Strings no 4 in C major, K 157 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola),
Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772-1773; Milan, Italy 
Length: 10 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
8.
Quartet for Strings no 5 in F major, K 158 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772-1773; Milan, Italy 
Length: 13 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
9.
Quartet for Strings no 6 in B flat major, K 159 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Milan, Italy 
Length: 11 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
10.
Quartet for Strings no 7 in E flat major, K 160 (159a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Milan, Italy 
Length: 12 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
11.
Quartet for Strings no 8 in F major, K 168 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 15 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
12.
Quartet for Strings no 9 in A major, K 169 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 14 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
13.
Quartet for Strings no 10 in C major, K 170 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin), Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin),
Jonathan Brown (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 13 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
14.
Quartet for Strings no 11 in E flat major, K 171 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Jonathan Brown (Viola),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 13 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
15.
Quartet for Strings no 12 in B flat major, K 172 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello), Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin),
Jonathan Brown (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 16 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 
16.
Quartet for Strings no 13 in D minor, K 173 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Vera Martinez-Mehner (Violin), Jonathan Brown (Viola), Arnau Tomąs Realp (Cello),
Abel Tomąs Realp (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Casals String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 14 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: Girona, Spain (09/2004); Girona, Spain (05/2005) 

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