Mozart: String Quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn - K. 421, 458 'Hunt' & 464

Cuarteto Casals

(CD - Harmonia Mundi #HMM 902654)

Review by James Manheim

The Cuarteto Casals inspires varying reactions from audiences and critics, perhaps because it's hard to pin them down under a single label for style or interpretation. This group of three of Mozart's string quartets dedicated to Haydn offers a good example of their variety. Whereas some quartets emphasize the growing subjectivity in these quartets, slashing their way through the serious Minuet of the String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421, the Cuarteto Casals is much more genial and Haydn-like in that movement. However, this doesn't become a general rule. The quartet takes each composition as an individual work, despite the fact that Mozart conceived of them as parts of a set. The finale of the String Quartet No. 17 in B flat major, K. 458 ("Hunt"), is very quick and exciting, appropriate to the Hunt theme even if the subtitle was not Mozart's (admittedly, the meaning of "allegro assai" varied considerably). The performances give the sensation of hearing something new around every corner, and even if this is not going to be every listener's cup of tea, one cannot but admire the Casals' ensemble playing as they shift gears. Harmonia Mundi's Teldex Studio sound is a major draw here.

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