Chiaroscuro Quartet

Haydn: "Sun" Quartets, Op. 20 Nos. 4-6

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This is the second half of a traversal of Haydn's Op. 20 quartets by the Chiaroscuro Quartet, and if you're after just one you can take your pick: both albums feature playing of a very high standard. But really the nature of the set demands hearing both: from the fugal finale of the String Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5, to the florid slow movements, to the multifarious sonata-allegros, the quartets of Op. 20 are experimental and even radical. The Chiaroscuro Quartet, using historical bows and gut strings, emphasizes the experimental quality with edgy performances, but they don't hit you over the head; instead, constant tension and excitement put across the sense of discovery in the music. Sample the first movement of the String Quartet in D major, Op. 20, No. 4, for a taste of the energy of the music in the hands of this group whose members hail from various European countries. BIS tries to maintain the intensity with very bright sound from the Sendesaal Bremen studio; the results are clear enough, but not representative of how the music would have sounded in its original surroundings. The accomplished playing of the Chiaroscuro Quartet is the main thing here, however.

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