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Molique: String Quartets Vol 2 / Mannheimer Streichquartett

Release Date: 06/30/2009 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777276-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wilhelm Bernhard Molique
Performer:  Shinkyung KimArmin FrommNiklas SchwarzAndreas Krecher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mannheim String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOLIQUE String Quartets: in E?; in f Mannheim Str Qrt cpo 777 276 (57:39)

Wilhelm Bernhard Molique—also spelled Molik and Molick—was born in 1802 in Nuremburg, son of a free-lance city musician originally from Alsace-Lorraine. He learned instruments early on, becoming proficient enough to be singled out for praise by Louis Spohr, who also taught the teenager for a while. By 1818, he had become an orchestra violinist in Vienna, the classical atmosphere of which would be his second great influence, after Spohr. Read more There are rumors of encounters with Beethoven and Schubert stemming from his time in Vienna; a friendship with Moscheles ensued.

His legacy was made over 23 years in Stuttgart, where he served as concert master and royal music director from 1826 until 1849. Because the conservative musical tastes better suited him, he moved to London. With Wagner and Berlioz anathema to British audiences, Molique must have seemed downright progressive in Britain. During his 11 years there, he became professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He went back to his home—Swabia—in 1866, to die there in 1869.

Eduard Hanslick mocked the Viennese audience’s expectations and romantic stereotypes rather than the performer’s appearance when he described Molique as a stout man wearing “neither a bleeding broken heart on his sleeve, nor long hair. Instead—what horror—horn rimmed specs!” And of his compositions he spoke warmly, if without particular enthusiasm.

If the two string quartets on this second volume (I’ve not heard the first but will now seek it out) allow conclusions about the rest of his chamber-music output, we have many very worthy cpo releases ahead of us. Bernhard Molique might have intended to pay tribute to Beethoven with the opus numbering of his quartets (Quartets Nos. 3 through 5 are opp. 18/1–3; Quartet No. 9, quite out of order, was given the opus number 59), but he doesn’t emulate his sound.

Not sounding like Beethoven is no disadvantage here: both are string quartets of the highest quality. They are true string quartets in the sense that all voices are equal (no “one plus three”), and “classical Romantic” in the Spohr mold, that is to say, without Beethoven’s refined seriousness or any newfangled chromatic shenanigans. But it isn’t light fare, much less shallow. The Quartet in E? is convivial; the F-Minor Quartet intense to the point where I am reminded in spirit, if not by actual notes, of Mendelssohn’s op. 80. Both are instantly enjoyable and—more important—still interesting after much repeated listening—perhaps the best such quartets I’ve heard by an unfamiliar composer of that era.

There’s always the danger of obscure repertoire not getting the full commitment of the recording artists—either because the artists willing to learn the new music are not of the highest caliber or because no competition and comparison need be feared. Fortunately, the Mannheim String Quartet doesn’t just “capably” plow through here; they perform with real commitment and first-rate execution. The reason I wonder, nevertheless, how this music might sound if a world-class ensemble like the Quatuor Ebène or the Minetti Quartet were to tackle it lies in the quality of the music, which more than deserves the competition.

A maddening point worth repeating with cpo releases: the English translation of Wolfgang Binal’s very fine liner notes is the usual awkward travesty, courtesy of Susan Marie Praeder.

FANFARE: Jens F. Laurson
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 18 no 3 by Wilhelm Bernhard Molique
Performer:  Shinkyung Kim (Violin), Armin Fromm (Cello), Niklas Schwarz (Viola),
Andreas Krecher (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mannheim String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Length: 29 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Engineer: Martin Vögele.
Audio Producers: Burkhard Schmilgun; Marlene Weber-Schäfer. 
Quartet for Strings in F minor, Op. 28 by Wilhelm Bernhard Molique
Performer:  Shinkyung Kim (Violin), Armin Fromm (Cello), Andreas Krecher (Violin),
Niklas Schwarz (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mannheim String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Length: 27 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Audio Engineer: Martin Vögele.
Audio Producers: Burkhard Schmilgun; Marlene Weber-Schäfer. 

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