It’s one thing to have a string quartet last 40 or more years—many have—but quite another to do so with no change in personnel, but that was the story of the Amadeus Quartet. When violist Peter Schidlof died suddenly in late 1987, the quartet disbanded rather than replace him. According to the notes for this release, only the Beethoven Quartet of Moscow, which went 41 years (1923–64) with the same players, has matched or surpassed this record.
Readers of my reviews will know by now that although I may highly praise the performances on a DVD of chamber music, I only rarely recommend the video side of it. This one is different. Aside from the ubiquitous goofy close-ups, this is a fascinating groupRead more to watch, as they are passionate about their playing. To watch these musicians really dig in to the music, and give so much of themselves through it, is fascinating to watch—and that is not a claim I can make about many string quartets on a video. Also interesting are the occasional close-ups of the sheet music, so old that the cellophane tape on it is yellowed!
It’s truly a pity that a performance of the Mozart “Dissonance” Quartet such as this is no longer acceptable by the Early Music Police. The Amadeus players are so much into it that it simply sweeps you away, whereas many of the latest straight-tone performances push you away. Listen, for instance, to the very special sound they elicit in the hush of the slow movement’s quietest moments, and then tell me you’ve heard any historically informed quartet play it as well. They can’t—because the sound Amadeus produces in the various shades of volume is dependent on string vibrato, which is taboo in any HIP performance.
There’s just something about the Amadeus Quartet’s tone, so very Viennese if you will, that makes them for me one of the most beautiful of all the famous postwar quartets. Others may have been more brilliant in both tone and execution, but the sweet, singing tone of the Amadeus players’ instruments remains unique in my experience. As with many Austrian string players, once in a great while the intonation of one of the violins is suspect, but they quickly make adjustments and go blithely on. Of course, the 1962 BBC studio performance of the Mozart K 428 quartet is in both mono sound and black-and white video, but who cares? It’s still wonderful to watch their total involvement, and oh, that tone … I could listen to them forever!
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
AMADEUS QUARTET PLAYS HAYDN AND MOZART
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet No. 62 in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, Hob.III:77, “Emperor”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: String Quartet No. 19 in C major, K. 465, “Dissonance”
Recorded live at Tredegar House, Newport, 18 December 1980 (Haydn) and at the Royal Opera House, London, 6 February 1983 (Mozart)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: String Quartet in E flat major, K. 428
BBC studio recording on 12 October 1962
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: Enhanced Mono
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 75 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 Read less
Professional PerformanceApril 4, 2015By P. Bentham (Montreal, QC)See All My Reviews"I enjoyed this performance of the String Quartets immensely. The nuances and technical expertize are without doubt that of a truly professional group and the interplay of the instruments shows how sensitive they are to each other in interpreting the scores. The 'Dissonance' quartet is particularly impressive in its ensemble. Altogether a most pleasing performance, and professionally presented by the technical staff."Report Abuse