Maggini Quartet

Mendelssohn: Complete Works for String Quartet, Vol. 1

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Most know that the reputation of Felix Mendelssohn wanes and then waxes. It still seems to be in the waxing phase, with performers discarding the notion of Mendelssohn as a kind of genteel Victorian and creating readings that reflect a more restless and personal spirit. This reading of the String Quartet in E minor, Op. 44/2, and the String Quartet in F minor, Op. 80, along with one of the little-known Four Pieces for string quartet, Op. 81, exemplifies the trend in fine style. The E minor quartet is placed in a long line of uneasy syncopated material running back through Beethoven to the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. The F minor quartet, written a few weeks before Mendelssohn's death and after that of his beloved sister, is even darker. As an intermezzo it's the Capriccio, a piece of the puzzle in which Mendelssohn worked out Bach's influence. The result, even if the energy flags slightly in the F minor quartet's hurtling finale, is a program of considerable emotional weight. The only discordant notes are sounded by some unsteady intonation in the slow movements and in the engineering as a whole; the sound environment of St. Michael and All Angels Church in the English village of Barton Turf creates a chilly sound not conducive to the heated emotional world the performers are trying to re-create.

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