Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all used fugues to profound effect in their chamber music, but they were not the only Classical-era composers to become fascinated by the old Baroque-era form. Mozart went directly to the source when he decided to study fugues more deeply, applying himself to Bach fugues in the collection of Viennese music connoisseur Gottfried van Swieten, but the other two absorbed lessons from the two composers represented on this disc: Haydn from Gregor Werner, his predecessor at Esterháza castle, and Beethoven, despite his obstreperously independent nature, from the dean of Viennese music pedagogues, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. All the fugues on the album are paired with slow preludes in the traditional manner. Those by Albrechtsberger are more interesting and should have been placed first; they recognize and make something of the tension between the fugue and the Classical style, with long, winding themes that break fixed Baroque harmonic rhythms and thus pose additional challenges in terms of making them work as fugues at all. The Werner fugues are string quartet transcriptions of French-style oratorio overtures. All but one is in a minor key, and all of them follow roughly the same pattern. Still, these are unknown missing links between Baroque fugues and those that spring up in Haydn's string quartets of Op. 20, seemingly without precedent, and the entire disc is worthwhile for those with a serious interest in the Classical string quartet and how it got to be the "serious" genre among a group of occasional ones. Hungary's straightforwardly named Authentic Quartet delivers clean performances on old although not necessarily authentic instruments; they come from various time periods, and the players do not seem to be using Classical-period bows. Booklet notes are in English, French, German, and Hungarian.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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