New Zealand String Quartet

Mendelssohn: String Quartets, Vol. 1

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Location, Location, Location. The familiar mantra used by realtors could just as easily be adopted by ensembles setting out to record CDs. In the case of this album, we have the New Zealand String Quartet performing the First, Fourth, and Sixth quartets of Mendelssohn. In this venture, which they have labeled as Volume 1, the quartet performs at Holy Martyr's Church in Brandford, Canada. No explanation is given for this choice of venue. The results, however, are obvious. While the ensemble's sound in a church may be thrilling for live audiences, it does not work especially well in recorded media. The edifice swallows up the cello's (and sometimes viola's) sound like a hungry beast. When playing forte, listeners can usually only tell that the cello is playing, not necessarily what it is playing. The boominess of the church has ramifications with dynamics, as well, as subito pianos are largely ineffective because the volume of previous fortes continues to resonate. Apart from the sound quality of the recording, the New Zealand String Quartet puts forth a mediocre reading of these three quartets. Intonation is sometimes rough around the edges, and the first violin's sound is forced too often.With so many other options available to listeners for recordings of these exuberant works, this particular volume should probably be passed up.

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