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Here, 11 years on, is the second instalment of the Quatuour Mosaïques’ survey of Beethoven’s early quartets, and it’s certainly been worth the wait.
Repertoire: String Quartets Op.18 Nos 1 & 4
Artists: Quatuor Mosaïques
Label: Naïve E8899
The key of C minor generally found Beethoven in passionate mood – think of the ‘Pathétique’ piano sonata, for example – and the fourth quartet is no exception. From the stabbing accents of the very first phrase the Mosaïques show their complete mastery, keeping up the tension until the end of the movement. They tiptoe through the delicate Andante, but Beethoven doesn’t relax for long, and the players do full justice to the dislocated rhythm of the Menuetto and the manic repetitions of the rondo finale. The First Quartet is sunnier. In place of the brooding phrase that begins No.4, Beethoven opens with a quip: a tiny figure tossed from instrument to instrument. The Mosaïques continue this amiable conversation among friends, before allowing themselves the merest hesitation, at a minute into the movement, to point up one of the composer’s breathtaking harmonic side-slips. The mood darkens in the slow movement, which, according to a friend of Beethoven’s, was inspired by the tomb scene in Romeo and Juliet. All four instruments, but especially the first violin and the cello, are eloquent in their sighing. This is a wonderful recording.