Gewandhaus Quartet Plays Mozart

Gewandhaus Quartet Plays Mozart

When a DVD is selected as DVD of the Month, it does not always mean that I recommend it. It may appear in this spot, because there are some interesting aspects to this recording, yet I might believe that you could locate much better performances of the subject compositions.

This interesting DVD presents three of the major Mozart string quartets along with the ever popular Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. These three quartets were dedicated to Haydn, and when he heard them, Haydn told Mozart’s father that generations to come will talk of his son. How right Haydn was…

The program begins with the string quartet no.19 in C Major K.465 “Dissonance”. This is followed by the string quartet no.21 in D Major K.575, the first “Prussian” quartet, composed for the cello playing King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia. Next on the program is the Serenade in G Major K.525, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. Finally, the group performs the string quartet no.14 in G Major K.387.

While I liked the interpretation of the Serenade, I felt perplexed by my reaction to the other quartets: My sense in hearing these was that this group of musicians are clearly competent and played quite beautifully. However, I finally figured out that somehow, the “soul” of Mozart was missing. What I mean by that is that the *notes* were all there, yet the drama, the pathos, the emotion, for that matter the adherence to dynamics were missing. That whole thing is actually quite curious! The Gewandhaus Quartet has either played these compositions too often, and they got tired of them; or they simply did not connect with the spirit of these compositions. Slow movements lacked the sadness. Fast movements lacked the joy, and often the child-like character. One did hear many places where the quartet played accents in the music; however other interpretive dynamics such as Pianissimos were largely non existent.

These performances were filmed in 2005 at the beautiful Baroque castle of Rammenau in Germany. There was no audience visible; perhaps that was a factor in making the performance –- for me — somewhat cold and not very satisfying.

I would encourage you to locate performances by the Hagen Quartet, the Guarneri Quartet, the Emerson Quartet, or older recordings by the Tokyo String Quartet, as an alternative.

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