Haydn: String Quartets Op. 76, 77, 103. Amadeus Quartet
Haydn: String Quartets Op. 76, 77, 103. Amadeus Quartet: Norbert Brainin and Sigmund Nissel, violins; Peter Schidlof, viola; Martin Lovett, cello. (Deutsche Grammophon, 289 471 762-2)
This three-CD set is a must for all string quartet lovers: Haydn's great last nine quartets played by one of Europe's foremost groups closely identified with the "Viennese" classics: the Amadeus Quartet. Formed in London in 1948 by three Austrians and an Englishman, the Amadeus stayed together for 40 years until the death of its violist. These reissues, originally recorded in the 1960s and '70s, show the fruits of this long collaboration. The players think, feel, and breathe together; weaving a seamless tapestry of lines in conversational give-and-take, they blend meticulous care with daring spontaneity but avoid any hint of excess. Their phrasing and pacing are perfectly poised, the style has gracious, humorous charm and courtly dignity. Their impeccable technique is always at the service of the music, even in the brilliantly tossed-off bravura passages. And their tone: Pure, rich, warm, and radiantly beautiful–it seems spun out of a single substance. The quartet's unique quality, however, is its constant expressiveness and response to every changing mood and nuance. Each note is important and infused with life, yet the music never loses its flow or structure. Listeners will find their own favorites among Haydn's masterpieces and the Amadeus' performances; only the Trio section of the opening quartet's Minuet is incongruously heavy and unsteady.
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