Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets

Emerson String Quartet

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Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets Review

by James Leonard

This set of the String Quartets of Mendelssohn may prove to be the most lasting contribution the Emerson Quartet has yet made to the string quartet discography. While the Emerson has always been slightly out of its depth in the quartets of Bartók, Beethoven, and Shostakovich, in the quartets of Mendelssohn, the Emerson has met its match. This is not to disparage either the Emerson Quartet, much less Mendelssohn. The Emerson is easily the finest string quartet in contemporary America, a supple ensemble with a warm tone, a strong technique, and an expressive manner. And Mendelssohn is easily the finest of the German composers of the 1830s and 1840s, a polished composer with an inexhaustible imagination, an assured technique, and an ardent heart. Together, Mendelssohn and the Emerson are smart, stylish, witty, and touching. It is a pleasure to spend time in their company. While the vehemence of Bartók, the sublimity of Beethoven, and the agony of Shostakovich may be just beyond the reach of the Emerson, the humanity of Mendelssohn is well within its grasp. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clear, warm, and deep.

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