Belcea Quartet

Mozart: String Quartets, Nos. 19, 20

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Light and graceful, elegant and expressive, lyrical and effortless, the Belcea Quartet's EMI recording of Mozart's C major "Dissonance" Quartet and his D major "Hoffmeister" Quartet were judged perhaps the finest recording the young English ensemble had yet made when this disc was released in early 2006. As before, the Belcea's technique was clean but supple and strong; the tone was lean but with a slightly sweet vibrato; the intonation was impeccable but faintly touched with tartness in its upper range; and the interpretations were emotional and very lightly sentimental with swelling phrasing and arching lines. Some argued the approach didn't suit the astringent harmonies that open the C major Quartet and give the work its nickname, but for the rest of that movement and the remainder of the program, most granted that the Belcea's approach fits Mozart's music like a hand in glove. Those looking for either a more reserved or a more anguished Mozart were disappointed by the Belcea's balanced approach, but those looking for a more open and tender-hearted Mozart found that which they sought. All, however, agreed that EMI's sound was remarkably warm and close, with breathtaking immediacy and intimacy.

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