THE HAGEN QUARTET
PLAYS MOZART AND BEETHOVEN
- Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135
- Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581
Sabine Meyer, clarinet
Hagen String Quartet
I heard these two performances today, and I can hardly contain myself, given the excitement I am feeling: these two performances are the finest I have heard in a long, long time! This music is performed with such elegance, such grace, such quality, and such beauty, it will likely be hard to describe!
The Hagen Quartet shows us their tone beauty, their clean sound, and their wonderful rhythmic accuracy. They also show us that they are perfectly able to modify their approach to fit the period of the work at hand. And that is the case in these performances of the Beethoven Op. 135 Quartet and the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. In the Mozart they are joined by one of the foremost clarinetists before the public, the almost-legendary German clarinetist, Sabine Meyer. These are live performances from the stage of Salzburg’s Large Hall at the Mozarteum, recorded in the year 2000.
The Beethoven Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135, is the composer’s last completed quartet. It has the motto ‘Muss es sein? — es muss sein!’ (‘Must it be? — It must be!’). This is a serious work, reflecting Beethoven’s sense that his life was likely about over. There are periods of great sadness, yet also periods of wonderful calm, and also hints at joy. At the Pianissimo ending of the Larghetto movement, there is an amazing quiet in the concert hall that is really astounding! The Hagen Quartet players convey the work’s final triumph over doubt and fear in a performance that is memorable in its genuine fine ensemble playing, and in the group’s mature understanding of the composition’s place in history.
Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, is quite different: It is one of the glories of chamber music that includes wind instruments. It was the first notable quintet for clarinet and string quartet and was inspired by Mozart’s admiration for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. The quintet has a great number of remarkably memorable melodies, at least five in the first movement alone. They are, of course, mostly given to the clarinet and one must say that Meyer’s tone and phrasing are perfectly suited for them. The Larghetto is a lovely tune for the clarinet accompanied by muted strings. Ms. Meyer’s tone is like melted chocolate, and the group’s ability to produce pianissimos is shown to all of us once again. The Finale is an Allegretto theme and variations. The theme is put through six variations, of which my favorite is the third with its soulful viola solo, played with a wonderful musical feeling by Veronika Hagen. I have not heard or seen her for a while, and I must admit that I am still in love with her…
Here’s the beginning of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet: