The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical CD of the Week: The new all-Mozart CD by the Jerusalem String Quartet gets 10 out of 10. Listen to the NHK Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth.

April 1, 2011
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

When I heard the Jerusalem String Quartet (below) live last fall at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison, I heard first-hand how stellar they sounded when they performed a program of Hadyn, Debussy and Brahms.

I praised them for the classicism, the clarity and precision, they brought even to the Romantic and Impressionist repertoire.

Here’s the review:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/classic-music-review-jerusalem-quartet-bring-classicisms-clarity-to-different-kinds-of-classics/

Now, with the group’s newest release, I see how right I was, and I am reminded all over again how the Jerusalem might well be the successor, at least in my book, to the virtuosic Emerson String Quartet.

The new CD, from Harmonia Mundi, is an all-Mozart program. I have long wanted to hear them in Mozart – they had done made award-winning recordings of Haydn, Schubert and Shostakovich, but no Mozart. But the Jerusalem Quartet doesn’t disappoint as it branches out with its new violist into a “new”’ composer.

For one the program is terrific. It amounts to a sampler, with an early quartet, a mature quartet and late quartet.

That program itself is a surprise to the degree that it shows how much good music can be found in early Mozart. The Quartet No. 4 in C Major, K. 179, can carry its own, not just as a predecessor to the well-known later works: the Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 58 and the “Prussian” Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 589.

Most importantly, this is simply glorious playing. For one it is decidedly not music box Mozart, which I usually detest. Oh, it has grace and elegance, to be sure. But it also has clarity and muscularity. This is upbeat and aggressive Mozart with great part playing as well as exemplary ensemble playing. No one player seems weak or inferior to the others.

It is no small trick to make a lot of Mozart (below) seem exciting rather than predictable, to make it seem as experimental and cutting edge as it was in its time rather than as predictably melodic background or brunch music.

The sonics and engineering are also top-rate and complement the first-rate playing.

This recording gets a 10 out of 10 in my book. I just cannot find a weakness, no matter how often I listen to it.

My only hope is that the Jerusalem does indeed plan a set of Mozart’s six “Haydn” quartets, which are masterpieces right at the very summit of the string quartet repertoire, and that they will also find another violist to do the six viola quintets, very great works that are underperformed and too frequently not listened too.

We live in a Golden Age of string quartets, and there are a lot of great ones playing, performing and recording. But few of them rise to the level of the Jerusalem, even though it just changed violists last year.

Here’s a link to their website so you can explore the Jerusalem Quartet in more depth:

http://www.jerusalemstringquartet.com/

What do you think of the Jerusalem String Quartet?

Do you know the new all-Mozart recording?

What do you think of it?

The Ear wants to hear.

AND HERE AGAIN, AS PROMISED, IS ANOTHER EXCERPT OF THE NHK SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF TOKYO TO HONOR THE JAPANESE AND THE WAY THEY ARE COPING WITH MULTIPLE DISASTERS. THIS TIME THE MUSIC IS FROM THE FINALE TO BEETHOVEN’S NINTH SYMPHONY — A FITTING TRIBUTE, DON’T YOU THINK?

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Posted in Classical music

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