Notes and Editorial Reviews
At last! Mozart quartets in new recordings that I can endorse with unbridled enthusiasm. The Klenke Quartett is a young group, founded in 1994, and comprised of four very attractive young women. What struck me immediately about these performances was their freshness. The Klenkes have managed to set aside generations of accreted notions about how these quartets ought to be played, and their approach pays off in spades.
The Klenke Quartett adopts tempos that are pretty much middle-of-the-road, but their phrasing and transparency of ensemble give the music a sense of forward momentum. It’s not just a matter of well-chosen tempos. There is a lightness and lift to their touch (by which I do not mean to imply insubstantial tonal
weight), and a clarity of voicing that allow rays of light to penetrate through the fabric from without and to radiate outward from within. Just listen to the fugal sport of the G-Major Quartet’s finale, in which Mozart amuses himself, and us, with the same four-note motive he will employ again in the fugal finale of his “Jupiter” Symphony. There is no other way to describe the Klenkes’s performance than to call it smiling and playful.
Then we have the more serious D-Minor Quartet, a key Mozart turned to sparingly and then usually for some of his most tragic-dramatic works. Minor key sonata-allegro movements posed an interesting challenge for composers. Typically, the secondary theme in the exposition modulated to the relative major of the primary key, so that the secondary theme of a work in D Minor, for example, would be in F Major. But then, what to do in the recapitulation, the point of which was to resolve the conflict by bringing back the secondary theme in the primary key? Beethoven, more often than not, took the easy way out. If the piece was in D Minor and the secondary theme was in F Major, in the recapitulation he restated the secondary theme as heard originally in Major, but simply transposed it to the primary key, so that now it was in D Major instead of F Major, but the shape or contour of the melody did not change. Not so Mozart. In contrast, more often than not, he took the opposite and more difficult path. He would not only bring the secondary theme back in the primary key to resolve the tonal conflict, but he would totally reshape it so that a melody once major was now minor. Nowhere is the effect of this so breathtaking and heart-rending as it is in the first movement of this D-Minor Quartet. Listen to the way the secondary theme is not simply transposed but totally transformed in the recapitulation. This is the true meaning of genius. And the Klenkes’s handling of this moment is itself an act of genius, albeit a re-creative one.
You must have gathered by now that I am really bowled over by this new release. These performances trump every other recording of these works I know, and that’s saying something. I only hope—no, pray—that the Klenkes will grace us with the complete cycle of six “Haydn” Quartets, as well as the valedictory four quartets, K 499, K 575, K 589, and K 590. The Profil recording, by the way, is astonishingly clean and transparent, with just the right amount of air and space around the players to create an acoustically live but not reverberant setting. I just can’t end this without marveling once again at how truly revelatory the playing of this group is—the nuances of phrasing and subtleties of shaping and shading between the voices. Virtually every measure is graced by some telling interpretive insight. Just gorgeous!
Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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