Notes and Editorial Reviews
There is certainly no shortage of recordings of these string quartets by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, but this one from the Czech Republic's Zemlinsky Quartet merits strong consideration for chamber music collections. The engineering from the Praga Digitals label is excellent with deep, clear Super Audio sound (auditioned on a good conventional stereo) captured in Prague's Martinek Studio. The program is coherent, with the lengthy, chromatic "La Malinconia" introduction to the finale of Beethoven's String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 18/6, balancing the mysterious opening of Mozart's String Quartet in C major, K. 465 ("Dissonant"), after Haydn's beloved "Emperor" quartet at the beginning. And best of all, the
Zemlinsky Quartet has a distinctive voice, with tough, unsentimental phrasing except where sensuous beauty is clearly called for. Thus, Haydn's variations on Austria's national hymn in the slow movement of the String Quartet in C major, Op. 76/3 ("Emperor"), and the main section of the finale of the Beethoven (after the "La Malinconia" introduction) are in strong contrast with the rest of the music, which is spiky, tense, and rhythmically sharp, with emphasis in small, surprising details in the Beethoven. The Mozart carries the uneasy quality associated with that quartet to its limit, and even the expansive Haydn opening movement has an unusual intensity. There are warmer versions of these quartets, certainly, but few that render the music in such detail.
-- James Manheim
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