It’s a thousand pities that the Quatuor Mosaïques never completed its cycle of Haydn quartets. Certainly they remain the reference recordings on period instruments, and they compare favorably with performances of any sort. There is something special about the Haydn quartets from Op. 20 on: their harmonic daring, variety of form and texture, and balance and perfection of structure make them timeless. It doesn’t matter whether the ensemble plays on period instruments or not. A great performance captures the music’s sense of discovery and spontaneity. It must sound as though the music were being composed as it is being played.
That means an approach that comes across as effortlessRead more and naturally expressive (and yes, that means a healthy use of vibrato in cantabile passages), and this is precisely the quality we find in these performances. Two examples suffice to demonstrate this point. Sample the slow movement of the F Minor Quartet, Op. 20 No. 5, and hear how Haydn proceeds from the opening siciliano rhythm, to a smoother pulse below the song of the first violin, to a thrilling climax on harmonies that could have been written yesterday. Similarly, the bagpipe episode in the “Emperor” Quartet’s first movement development section needs to sound rustic, gutsy, but never crude. This performance captures the music’s “open air” quality without a trace of unnecessary harshness.
In general, then, the playing of the Mosaïques has all of the classical virtues of clean ensemble, excellent internal balances, and wonderfully judged phrasing. The cello of Christophe Coin deserves special praise for his firm but never overwhelming realization of Haydn’s critical bass lines. I am not a fan of the string quartet version of The Seven Last Words of the Savior on the Cross, but this is certainly one of the better ones, and all six opera have been vibrantly engineered for maximum warmth, clarity, and impact. A great set, and a “must” for Haydn quartet collectors.
Good selection nd CollectionJanuary 1, 2014By Samuel C. (South Orange, NJ)See All My Reviews"If you like to lsten to Haydn, this is a good collection. Well played, excellent reproduction worth the price."Report Abuse
Not the bestDecember 31, 2013By James A R. (Oak Ridge, TN)See All My Reviews"I love the Haydn String Quartets, and disagree with the many rave reviews of this set. First of all, they leave out my favorite Op. 50 (Prussian) quartets. To me, Haydn is about grace and humor. I much prefer the Angeles Quartet's complete set. They have perfect intonation, great tone, and the sense of humor I want. I find the Mosaiques version rather sterile. My overall favorite recording of Haydn quartets is by the original (all-Japanese) Tokyo Quartet doing the Op. 50. Someone needs to reissue it on CDs. I do not like the sour tone of the Lindsays. The Tákacs and the Endellions are quite good. Even the very old Aeolian version is preferable to the Mosaiques IMHO."Report Abuse