Notes and Editorial Reviews
String Quartets: in a,
HÄNNSLER 98645 (51:01)
Let’s be honest. When it comes to already over-recorded mainstream works, the vast majority of new releases are perfectly fine; they’re just not special. That we continue to pursue them with the expectation of finding something new or revelatory is a phenomenon perhaps best explained by psychologists. Mind you, I’m not
complaining. It keeps musicians employed, record companies in business, and
But ask yourself this: If you woke up one morning to find all of your CDs liberated from their jewel cases and the printing on the discs erased, would you stake your life on being able to identify every performance you have of a given work? I know I couldn’t. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what many of the pieces were or who wrote them, let alone know for sure who the soloist was on one of my 50 versions of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto.
All of this is preamble to saying that the Minetti Quartet offers sleek, efficient, modern performances of two of Mendelssohn’s string quartets, each with more than three dozen listed recordings, and in the effort brings nothing new or revelatory to these well-explored works. This is not intended as negative criticism, for I find nothing, absolutely not a thing, to fault. Intonation is spot-on, execution is clean and flawless, tempos are well chosen, dynamics well judged, and phrasing, particularly in slow movements, expressively shaded and shaped.
What more could one want? Nothing really; yet in listening to these same works performed by the Emerson and Pacifica quartets, I sense a higher voltage of electricity in their playing, especially in fast movements, a tension the Minetti doesn’t quite match. Which brings me back to my opening thoughts. With ensembles like the Emerson and Pacifica quartets competing in this arena, not to mention the Gewandhaus and Leipzig quartets, which have also made strong impressions in this repertoire, it should be a fair question to ask if there’s anything exceptional or stand-out distinctive about these Minetti performances that makes them indispensable. My answer would have to be no.
As with practically everything Mendelssohn wrote, his string quartets, too, are touched here and there by flashes of his genius, but these are not works that compare in depth and breadth of utterance to Beethoven’s quartets, so it’s probably also fair to ask how many more recordings of Mendelssohn’s quartets we need to convince us that there really isn’t anything to be found in them that hasn’t already been revealed.
Final grade? Performance, A; recording, A. Buy recommendation? A nicety, not a necessity.
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