Barbara Buntrock / Leipziger Streichquartett

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: String Quintets

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The 21st century has seen a certain revival of interest in Felix Mendelssohn's chamber music, and an entry in the field from the German audiophile label MDG is welcome. In the realm of engineering, this recording is superb even by MDG's high standards, with startlingly clear, immediate, yet never overwhelming sound captured at one of the label's favorite haunts, the Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster (a historic abbey). The effect is impressive in the String Quartet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87, a work in which Mendelssohn pulls out all the stops to create an orchestra-like texture. It's a tremendously exciting piece, not very Mendelssohn-like, and not much like anything else in the chamber music repertory. The Leipzig String Quartet, with the addition of violist Barbara Buntrock (these are string quintets in the Mozart configuration, with paired violins and violas), catches the excitement with very high energy in the dense, hurtling outer movements. The fetching quality of Mendelssohnian melody, on comparatively greater display in the String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18, is less of a strong point for the group, but they are nowhere less than technically impressive. Recordings of these two works are still not abundant, and for the fine performance of the B flat major quintet and the top-notch engineering this is well worth considering for libraries of chamber music of the 19th century.

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