Maggini Quartet

Mendelssohn: Complete Works for String Quartet, Vol. 2

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The Maggini Quartet has specialized in unusual works from its native Britain, but with its ongoing cycle of works by Felix Mendelssohn the group moves to the heart of the Romantic chamber repertory. Those interested in sampling just one of the Maggini's Mendelssohn readings might turn to the first volume in the series, which features a couple of the most frequently performed Mendelssohn quartets. Yet there's a lot to be said for this second volume, which includes some early pieces and one from the middle of Mendelssohn's career. The Maggini's rather scholastic tone fits the String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13, and the Fuga, Op. 81, very well. These two pieces, composed when Mendelssohn was 18, show the composer struggling with the titanic model of Beethoven. Especially interesting is the fugue, which appears to be patterned after the opening movement of Beethoven's late String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131, and even contains a melody closely resembling an episode in the fugal opening of that work. It's not clear which of Beethoven's quartets Mendelssohn knew, but these pieces offer insight into the serious, ambitious side of Mendelssohn's personality. The sunny String Quartet in D major, Op. 44/1, from 1837, concludes the proceedings with a straightforward, rousing performance. Chilly church sound that's inappropriate to the music is a disincentive, but the recording will find a place in substantial Mendelssohn collections.

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