Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here is yet another recently hatched string quartet ensemble, this one Dutch, making what it is claimed by the booklet note and the disc title, “Première,” to be its auspicious debut on record. But that cannot be, unless the actual date of recording (which is not given) predates that of another Matangi CD I acquired some time ago on this same label—a program containing quartets by Grieg, Röntgen, and Johansen. I suppose if the opus numbers assigned to musical works do not necessarily reflect their order of composition, release dates of CDs likewise do not always reflect order of recording. So, I shall accept that this is in fact the Mantangi’s first recording, even though I’ve already made their acquaintance on another release.
I wish I could wax as enthusiastic about these young players (Maria-Paula Majoor and Daniel Torrico Menacho, violins; Karsten Kleijer, viola; and Nander Cirkel, cello) as I have over other recent arrivals on the scene, but there are things about this ensemble that give me pause. Technical polish is not one of them, for—as with all modern chamber groups these days—execution is perfect. It’s with their presentation that I have issues.
First, the sound they deliver (and this may be due to the acoustic space in which they were recorded) has a daintiness about it that I am almost tempted to call effeminate. Put another way, it seems that even with all the effort they are obviously putting into it, the sound they make, for all its surface sweetness, is lacking in body weight. In repeated listening, I think I’ve isolated the problem to a weakness in the bass; the cello simply doesn’t project with sufficient heft. Even in those gorgeous solo passages in the Dvo?ák, it tends to sound muffled and drowned out by an over-prominent first violin.
Then there is the matter of interpretation. If the Matangi don’t take the finale Presto to the Haydn quartet quite as fast as I’ve heard it taken by others, their execution is clean and clockwork precise; and they play up Haydn’s humorous accents, sudden stops, and hairpin curves with real relish. But a slowish tempo and those same hairpin italicizations don’t work for the Schubert “Quartettsatz,” a movement on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And throughout the Schubert, and the Dvo?ák as well, though less damaging in the latter, there are strange little hesitations, exaggerated ritards, and dynamic ebbs and swells that interrupt the music’s natural flow.
I don’t want to blow any of this out of proportion. This is fine playing, and if ideas aren’t quite settled as to how to bring their own personality to bear upon these scores without distorting them, the Matangi, I have every confidence, will mature rapidly into an important ensemble. There are no fatal flaws here or bad habits that aren’t easily corrected.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
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