Prazák Quartet

Haydn: Prussian Quartets, Op. 50

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The Czech Republic has long been fertile ground for top-notch chamber ensembles, and the Prazák Quartet, which has specialized in Romantic repertory, will do nothing to dent that reputation with its recordings of music by Haydn and Mozart. This set of the three quartets of Haydn's Op. 50 from the middle 1780s is a standout in several respects. Start with the superb Prague studio super audio sound, miked moderately close in an apparently spacious room: it's remarkably evocative of a chamber in which Haydn's quartets might have been played. The Prazák players are superior Haydn interpreters, with careful sensitivity to the tight motivic construction that really comes to the fore for the first time in these pieces, a fine slyly quiet take on the minuets, a brisk drive in the finales (hear the slightly madcap finale of the String Quartet in F major, Op. 50/3), and an appreciation for the rhythmic vitality of Haydn in general. The booklet, with notes in English, French, and German, is a negative, with erroneous birth and death dates given for Haydn in the tracklist (they seem to have confused him with Mendelssohn) and numerous other errors. But this is a recording that combines top-notch playing and engineering, and it really places nothing between the listener and the music. A joy from start to finish.

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