Called one of the most dynamic and exciting young quartets of the new millennium, the Jerusalem Quartet's first recording for France's Harmonia Mundi label of three Haydn string quartets is certainly dynamic and exciting. Whether that's what one wants in performances of Haydn's string quartets is open to debate. The Jerusalem's intonation is impeccable, its ensemble is agile, and its rhythm is driven and all that is just fine. One could easily imagine its approach working in the string quartets of later composers. But the Jerusalem's interpretations of Haydn's string quartets are too histrionic and the tempos too rhapsodic. The Lark Quartet, Op. 64/5, is too fleet and too whimsical, the tempos flitting, and the phrasing precious. The Quinten Quartet, Op. 76/2, is too harsh and too hard, the tempos pushing forward at climaxes and pulling back immediately after. The Op. 77/1 is too nostalgic and too sentimental, the tempos too loose, and the phrasing close to cloying. The Jerusalem's expressive approach to interpretation might work splendidly in Janácek, but it's too much for Haydn, a composer who was never precious, harsh, or sentimental. Harmonia Mundi's digital sound is lush and enveloping, but clear and clean.
Review by James Leonard
|String Quartet No. 53 in D major ("Lark"), Op. 64/5, H. 3/63|
|String Quartet No. 61 in D minor ("Fifths"/"The Bell'/"The Donkey"), Op. 76/2, H. 3/76|
|String Quartet No. 66 in G major, Op. 77/1, H. 3/81|