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Thread: Mozart String Quartets

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    Default Mozart String Quartets

    I did do a search and found a thread that wasn't exactly what I was looking for so I started a new thread.

    I own the Brilliant Classics Complete Mozart and I am very happy with it (of course). I went out on a limb after doing some research and picked up the Complete Symphonies by Hogwood and I must say I prefer the Hogwood symphonies.

    Essentially I want to know if there's a HIP performance collection of Mozart's complete string quartets (yes, even those early ones).

    Any advice on this subject would be helpful, ie, the late quartets by so-and-so, early by another, or anything like that. Not strictly HIP but I do prefer it over the more standard version.

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    Quartet Mosaiques is a PI ensemble that has recorded at least the mature quartets, I don't know if they did the earlier ones. Quartet Festetics has recorded all of them but hard to find now. I've heard them on Naxos Music Library.

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    Quote Originally Posted by haydnfan View Post
    Quartet Mosaiques is a PI ensemble that has recorded at least the mature quartets, I don't know if they did the earlier ones. Quartet Festetics has recorded all of them but hard to find now. I've heard them on Naxos Music Library.
    Note to the OP: The thing with the HIP recordings is that, even if you like the PI sound, you are subjected to those interpretations.



    I recommend an alternative course: locate and listen to the recordings of the quartets dedicated to Haydn, performed by the Bartók Quartet.

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    I think the Mozart "Haydn Quartets" is a good suggestion, and also to consider performance alternative. Here's a set that's accessible and affordable, with exceptional performances and sound.


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    Avoid the Quatuor Festetics - unless you're looking for that "prima vista" chamber music evening atmosphere :P

    I'd go for the Hagen Quartett box on DG (all of the string quartets, plus a few divertimenti and various fugue arrangements) and - if you need a HIP set - the Quatuor Mosaiques box of the final 10 string quartets (if you can find it). Though the Hagens play on modern instruments their approach isn't that different from the Mosaiques (perhaps a bit less noble and more spontaneous), which is hardly surprising given their artistic outlook was shaped by the same teachers (Végh & Harnoncourt).

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    I think that the Hagen Quartett performances sound overly loud and contrasty. They seem to think that they are performing Carter or Bartok instead of Mozart. Good for a cheap thrill, but easily the worst box set available.

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    Quote Originally Posted by haydnfan View Post
    I think that the Hagen Quartett performances sound overly loud and contrasty. They seem to think that they are performing Carter or Bartok instead of Mozart. Good for a cheap thrill, but easily the worst box set available.
    Worse than the sloppy, coddled, out-of-tune Amadeus Quartet box set? Hardly.

    Mozart is all about contrast, if the recordings are too loud for you - turn the volume down. Or did you mean to imply their dynamics were too wide?

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    Exclamation Dissension in the ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by haydnfan:
    I think that the Hagen Quartett performances sound overly loud and contrasty. They seem to think that they are performing Carter or Bartok instead of Mozart. Good for a cheap thrill, but easily the worst box set available.

    Quote Originally Posted by 1648 View Post
    Worse than the sloppy, coddled, out-of-tune Amadeus Quartet box set? Hardly.

    Mozart is all about contrast, if the recordings are too loud for you - turn the volume down. Or did you mean to imply their dynamics were too wide?
    Harumph. The AQ is not mentioned in polite society (not to be confused with the Amadeus Ensemble, which is well respected by the cognoscenti).

    My own impression of the Hagen Sound is that it is better suited to modern, tonally 'aggressive' music than to Haydn or Mozart; similar to the Arditti, with slightly softer edges. How much of this effect is due to the recording engineer, I dunno.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Harumph. The AQ is not mentioned in polite society (not to be confused with the Amadeus Ensemble, which is well respected by the cognoscenti).
    He insulted my Hagens, I had to resort to drastic measures!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    My own impression of the Hagen Sound is that it is better suited to modern, tonally 'aggressive' music than to Haydn or Mozart; similar to the Arditti, with slightly softer edges.
    I take it you like your spicy dishes searing hot and the desserts sickly sweet, yes?

    Well, I don't. I believe there's more than plush Rococo sing-song to Mozart and Haydn (those few rumps and bumps make the lyrical bits all the sweeter!), just like I'm convinced there's more to adequately performing modern music than cold, sharp ascetic precision (Boulez in Webern - why, why?).
    Last edited by 1648; Apr-30-2011 at 02:30. Reason: The why wasn't wwwwhhhhhyyyy enough. / Sloppy mistakes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1648 View Post
    Worse than the sloppy, coddled, out-of-tune Amadeus Quartet box set? Hardly.

    Mozart is all about contrast, if the recordings are too loud for you - turn the volume down. Or did you mean to imply their dynamics were too wide?
    Yeah the dynamics are too wide. I did not know that the Amadeus Q set came back in print... I take that back then.

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    Lightbulb Interpretations, string tone, gestalt...

    (from 1648: I take it you like your spicy dishes searing hot and the desserts sickly sweet, yes?)

    There are gradations. I like 'hot' dishes (notably Mexican) and certainly have a sweet tooth (preferably natural sweeteners), but there are limits, both for food and for music.

    I have the feeling sometimes that I'm 'getting' Webern, but I never have that delusion with Boulez.

    The string quartet ensembles that I tend to rely on to make anything they choose to record comprehensible to me are the Petersen, and to a lesser extent the Mann-led Julliard. There are other ensembles that I like better for certain things...


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    Quote Originally Posted by haydnfan View Post
    Yeah the dynamics are too wide.
    Why? Because under their bows the sections and voices marked (f)orte actually sound loud and strong, doing full justice to the dynamic as well as the expressive connotations of the word? How dare they make Mozart not boring!

    I'd like to hear your other, non-HIP favorites though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    There are gradations. I like 'hot' dishes (notably Mexican) and certainly have a sweet tooth (preferably natural sweeteners), but there are limits, both for food and for music.

    I have the feeling sometimes that I'm 'getting' Webern, but I never have that delusion with Boulez.

    The string quartet ensembles that I tend to rely on to make anything they choose to record comprehensible to me are the Petersen, and to a lesser extent the Mann-led Julliard. There are other ensembles that I like better for certain things...
    Aren't we drifting off-topic? I thought this was a Mozart thread.
    Last edited by 1648; Apr-30-2011 at 02:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1648 View Post
    Why? Because under their bows the sections and voices marked (f)orte actually sound loud and strong, doing full justice to the dynamic as well as the expressive connotations of the word? How dare they make Mozart not boring!

    I'd like to hear your other, non-HIP favorites though.
    Rumor has it that the major impetus behind the modifications to the violin, viola and cello in the early 19th C. was to enable louder fortes. Mozart's f indications had the Baroque instruments in mind. Therefor...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Rumor has it that the major impetus behind the modifications to the violin, viola and cello in the early 19th C. was to enable louder fortes. Mozart's f indications had the Baroque instruments in mind. Therefor...
    ...e we can conclude that the pp to f palette Mozart usually employs in his string quartets should be relative to the overall volume of the ensemble and its instruments, consequently the Hagens' pianos and fortes are both louder than those of the Mosaiques - whose gut-stringed instruments (not all of them are "unmodified" period ones) project a sharply-contoured, overtone-rich sound even at a slighter volume. In a way the Hagens are compensating for the duller tone of their instruments with unusually clear-cut rhythmic articulation, not necessarily to the music's detriment in my opinion - Mozart often sounds mushy in the hands of "traditional" quartets.

    That aside, dismissing a performance of the Mozart quartets because the overall dynamic proportions might be slightly off would strike me as rather pedantic.
    Last edited by 1648; Apr-30-2011 at 03:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1648 View Post
    I'd like to hear your other, non-HIP favorites though.
    Alban Berg Quartett on Teldec is my favorite. I also have a recording of the Melos Quartet that I really like.

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