This release is not a simple Haydn-and-Mozart string quartet release; hidden in the unpleasant snarl of design elements is the German word "inspiriert," or inspired, which is placed in such a way as to indicate that each composed inspired the other. The fact that Haydn and Mozart influenced each other, perhaps most strongly in the field of the string quartet, is not news, and almost any trio of works by these composers would furnish examples. Switzerland's Amati Quartet, however, aims at a couple of very specific linkages. The results are mixed from the listener's point of view. The chain of influences begins in midstream, with the booklet notes by Wolfgang Fuhrmann (in German, English, and French) directing you to comparisons between Mozart's String Quartet in C major, K. 170, and Haydn's quartets of Op. 17; none of the latter is represented, although there was definitely room on the disc. The "Mozart inspired Haydn" part of the equation actually hardly enters into the picture at all here, but the concluding Haydn-Mozart pair aims to draw on musicological research indicating the Allegretto Haydn's String Quartet in G major, Op. 54/1, as an immediate inspiration for the strange dissonant passage at the beginning of Mozart's String Quartet in C major, K. 465 ("Dissonant"). No doubt this conclusion is debatable; free-floating dissonance appeared in a number of works from the Sturm und Drang circle. But this is a good, fresh juxtaposition. The album's strongest feature is not its concept but simply the Amati's playing; it has a nice way of laying out the material of a movement with very circumspect simplicity and then bearing down with considerable intensity as the motivic work begins to coalesce in the development section. Each movement is absorbing in its own way, and the group also draws an effective contrast between Mozart and Haydn that plays against the linkages theme, with the dramatic concept of Mozart's sonata forms set against a tense delineation of the economy of Haydn's. The sound, from a studio at Hessian State Radio, is another attraction. Although there were other ways to approach the problem, this is certainly worth the time and money of those pondering the Haydn-Mozart relationship.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet in C major, KV 170|
|String Quartet No. 43 in G major, Op. 54, 1 Hob.3:58|
|String Quartet in C major, KV 465|