Saturday, 14 May 2016

Haydn - String Quartets - Jerusalem Quartet

Rating: 4/5

Fine playing, but...

I like this disc but I do have my reservations.

The music itself is wonderful, and particularly if you are looking for a sample of Haydn's finest quartets the programme alone is enough to commend this disc strongly.  There are three Quartets here:  the famous "Lark" (Op. 64 No.5), the "Fifths" (Op. 76 No.2) and the towering masterpiece which is Op.77 No.1.  Each is given its own character by the Jerusalem Quartet and they play them very well.

Technically, the playing is excellent, with rock-solid intonation and extremely fine ensemble playing - their sheer accuracy in the scampering finale of The Lark, for example, is remarkable.  The Jerusalem Quartet also bring real distinctness to each work with fabulous, soaring beauty in the opening of The Lark and powerful, dark passion in parts of The Fifths.  However, I felt at times there was a little something lacking.  For example, the finale of The Lark is spectacularly quick and quite exciting here but lacked that sense of real exuberant joy which Quatuor Ebene bring to it, and the sheer weight and passion the Jerusalem Quartet give to the dark, driving minuet of The Fifths was really arresting for a while but became a bit much when unrelieved for the whole movement which desperately needed the little leavening of lightness I find in Quatuor Mosaiques' interpretation.

Please don't let me put you off - these things are a matter of taste and there is no doubt that this is a disc of fabulous music, very well played.  For me, though, Quatuor Ebene and Quatuor Mosaiques are a better bet and I can only give this disc a somewhat qualified recommendation.

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