Zemlinsky Quartet

Mendelssohn: String Quartets Nos. 4 & 6; Capriccio

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Though his life was tragically short, Mendelssohn composed chamber music throughout his career, some of the finest examples of which are his string quartets. This Praga Digitals disc focuses on three works for string quartet from the end of his repertoire, all three in minor keys: the E minor Quartet, Op. 44/2 (1837); the Capriccio in E minor, Op. 81 (1843); and the tragic Op. 80 F minor Quartet (1847). Mendelssohn was really pushing his own compositional style and harmonic language by the time of the F minor Quartet, written shortly after the death of his beloved sister Fanny. Performing these three intense quartets is the Zemlinsky Quartet, a Czech ensemble founded in 1994. The Zemlinsky's possess a decidedly Czech sound: powerful rhythmicity, sharp attacks, and an intense sound with powerful vibrato. For most of Mendelssohn's music on this disc, this sound aesthetic may not be what listeners may have come to expect, but vibrant energy and intensity and passion that the Zemlinsky's bring truly accentuates the emotional impact that these quartets carry. There are moments, particularly in the more tranquil sections of the slow movements, where listeners may find themselves wishing for a bit more sensitivity, warmth, or even aloofness, but by and large this arousing reading of the late Mendelssohn quartets will excite even those listeners who have heard them many times before.

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