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Mendelssohn: String Quintets No 1 & 2 / Rossi, Fine Arts

Release Date: 05/27/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570488   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Danilo Rossi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One can hardly imagine these works being given a more sympathetic reading.

There’s something about a string Quintet that I’ve always found far more appealing than a Quartet. While many composers thrive on the economy of means that a quartet necessitates, they can also be inspired to special heights by the extra layer that a quintet supplies. That extra instrument makes all the difference. I’d far rather listen to Mozart’s great string quintets than his quartets, and Schubert’s quintet is perhaps the greatest work of chamber music ever composed. So it was with a positive predisposition that I turned to this Mendelssohn disc, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Nineteen years separate these two works. The first
Read more quintet was written when Mendelssohn was only 17, the same year in which he produced his Midsummer Night’s Dream overture, while the second dates from the last year of his life. The difference in style is fairly evident. No. 1 is full of youthful exuberance, though still combined with breathtaking artistry, while No. 2 is more thoughtful and restrained.

The first quintet, for some reason given second on this disc, is unremittingly sunny, from the pastoral first movement, through the affectionate intermezzo and busy scherzo to the playful finale. The second, on the other hand, is more subtle and nuanced. The first movement’s first subject on the violin takes off in a typical "flying" theme while the others provide busy momentum which propels the music forward to its sunny conclusion. The second movement is a quirky (parody?) minuet, while the third is a funereal piece of sombre majesty, and the finale is a sparkling vivace. As an additional bonus we are given the original second movement (Minuet) of the first quintet: the current one is a replacement written as a memorial to Mendelssohn’s friend, the violinist Eduard Rietz, to whom the Octet had been dedicated.

The performances from the Fine Arts Quartet are ideally suited to this kind of music. They tailor their sound perfectly to the very different demands of each movement and carry off the technical issues flawlessly: listen to the skilful double-stopping at the end of the first quintet’s first movement. At no stage, however, does the music sound academic or pushed: the musicians work together as an integrated unit and listen to each other to "gel" seamlessly. I get the feeling that they really enjoyed making this disc. The Naxos sound is close in a warm acoustic, quite fitting for this music.

So unfamiliar as this repertoire is, it repays the effort in getting to know it, and one can hardly imagine these works being given a more sympathetic reading.

-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Strings no 1 in A major, Op. 18 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Danilo Rossi (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826/1832; Germany 
Quintet for Strings no 2 in B flat major, Op. 87 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Danilo Rossi (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Fine Arts String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Good introduction to Mendelssohn's chamber music February 18, 2013 By James T. (Voorhees, NJ) See All My Reviews "For the past couple of years I've listened to a lot of chamber music. While I love string quartet music, I also like the fuller sound of more instruments. These two quintets, written when when he was 17 (No. 1) and at age 36 (No. 2) are apparently very similar in style; both express joy, perhaps the second one a little reservedly. The digital recording does seem a little bright at times, but Naxos did a good job. I bought the CD after hearing the Parker Quartet, with Kim Kashkashian guesting on viola, perform the second quintet in Philadelphia on January 11, 2013. Recommended." Report Abuse
 Dazzled Ears April 1, 2012 By Robert L. (Springfield, OH) See All My Reviews "This recording strikes me as overbright to the point, at times, of shrillness. The opening of the second quintet illustrates my point. Moreover, the Hausmusik CD set shows that there is more in these quintets than is presented on this Naxos CD." Report Abuse
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