Matangi Quartet

Mendelssohn: String Quartet Op. 12; String Quintet Op. 18

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The Matangi Quartet's readings of Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 1 and String Quintet No. 1 have many things going for them, but one big thing going against them. The Dutch group has the speed and ensemble to keep up with the quintet's lightning-fast Allegro di molto and Allegro vivace, and the heart and soul to dig down into the quartet's Canzonetta and Andante espressivo. Even more importantly, the Matangi has the polish and refinement to articulate the works' forms and elucidate their textures. But they lack one crucial quality to make Mendelssohn's music come alive: joie de vivre. Here, Mendelssohn more often than not sounds tired, as if the energy of keeping everything moving was too much for him, and he wanted nothing more than to take a nap. Given the composer's reputation for propulsive rhythms and driving tempos, this interpretation could hardly be more wrongheaded. Recorded in cool, clear, but a bit too clean sound, this disc is interesting enough as long as it's playing, but fades rapidly in the memory once it's ended.

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