Written some 20 years apart, the first and final string quartets of Felix Mendelssohn were completed a short time after the death of Beethoven (Op. 13) and his beloved sister Fanny (Op. 80). Whether the composer had these two influential events in mind specifically when composing his two tragic, minor quartets is far from certain, but given the emotional intensity and tumult contained in their scores, it's easy for listeners to imagine how Mendelssohn might have been impacted by these two tragic deaths. The Quatuor Modigliani, a young ensemble formed in 2003 and subsequently capturing a number of important chamber music awards, tackles these two masterworks of the repertoire on this 2010 Mirare album. In addition to their exceptionally clean technique and precise intonation, Modigliani possesses sublime and uncommon control over its vibrato. Rather than applying it perfunctorily across every note, the group incorporates it as an expressive technique as important as dynamics or rubato. Listen to the glasslike stillness achieved with the sparse vibrato in the opening of Op. 13 and the contrastingly intense but tight use in the Op. 80 Finale. Modigliani has already achieved an impressively blended sound, one in which each instrument is clearly audible while simultaneously meshing. Dynamics are applied with pinpoint accuracy. Yes, the Quatuor Modigliani is indeed an ensemble to watch in the future. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy an exceptionally captivating recording of these moving quartets.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Quatuor à cordes en la mineur, Op. 13|
|Quatuor à cordes en fa mineur, Op. 80|