Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Album Review: Emerson Quartet - Mozart: The Prussian Quartets

Sample and buy the album at Ariama!

It’s been nearly twenty years since the Emerson String Quartet last recorded music by Mozart, so this new recording of the three “Prussian” quartets (works that the Emersons used to play in their early days) is most welcome.

A 1789 visit to the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (an amateur cellist) resulted in the King offering Mozart a job at court. Mozart turned down the gig in deference to the Emperor in Vienna, but did (according to his own account) leave with a commission for a set of six quartets for the King.
Mozart only wrote three quartets but was forced to sell them off for what he called a “trifling sum.” Since the King was a cellist and also employed Jean-Pierre Duport (one of the finest cellists of his day), Mozart was pressed to highlight the instrument without compromising the ensemble’s balance. Mozart solved the problem by writing each member of the ensemble a solo part in turn. Being Mozart, the results are glorious.

The Emersons have been together for 35 years and their performances are still exhilarating and marvels of technical excellence. They make the brisk movements glide with elegance, charm and energy. Their sweetly singing tone is ideal for the graceful slow movements, especially the beautiful Larghetto of the K. 589 quartet. The precision of the Emerson's playing is gloriously showcased in the high-octane finale of the K. 590, where contrapuntal lines are tossed about like a hot potato. Kudos to engineer Da-Hong Seetoo who has captured this marvelous music making with detailed but natural sound.

Click here to sample and buy the album!

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