Fine Arts Quartet

Mendelssohn: String Quintets Nos. 1 & 2

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Mendelssohn is easy to identify. The tone is light and bright, the textures clear and clean, the tempos poised and alert, and the emotional content -- even in the darker and more passionate works -- always ultimately optimistic. And so it is here in this Naxos disc coupling Mendelssohn's two string quintets. Though the first in A major was written when the composer was 17 and the second in B flat major was written when the composer was 36, both works are manifestly the product of the same cheerful romantic mind. The performances here by the Fine Arts Quartet, augmented with violist Danilo Rossi, are tight, lucid, energetic, and life affirming. The group has a forceful ensemble that can fly through the A major quintet's closing Allegro vivace, as well as it can tear through the B flat major quintet's closing Allegro molto vivace. But they also have an intensity and an emotional expressivity that make the most of the B flat major quintet's soulful central Adagio e lento. Also including the A major quintet's original third movement, this disc should be heard by anyone who enjoys Mendelssohn's music in general and his chamber music in particular. Naxos' sound is crisp and vivid, though it may be a bit close for some tastes.

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