One of the masterpieces of his youth, Mendelssohn's Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20 (1825), was written when the teenage composer was open to novelty and growing more confident of his abilities in long forms. Apparently prompted by Spohr's antiphonal double quartets and eager to improve on them, Mendelssohn devised instead a true octet of eight independent but equal string parts, and cast his music in an expansive framework, using all the devices at his disposal to make the work symphonic in texture and scope. The String Quartet in E flat (1823), forgotten for half a century, predates the numbered quartets, and it was in this formative work that Mendelssohn honed his skills and explored many ideas that were later used in the Octet. Hearing these pieces together makes the connections clear, yet the String Quartet holds up remarkably well, once one gets past the obvious similarities and accepts the piece on its own modest but still sophisticated terms. The Leipzig String Quartet is warm and expressive in this buoyant work; and, augmented by violinists Matthias Wollong and Yamei Yu, violist Hartmut Rohde, and cellist Martin Sanderling in the Octet, the ensemble is even more inviting for its genial tone and enthusiasm. MDG's unenhanced sound is natural and resonant.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20|
|String Quartet in E flat major|