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These recordings set a new level that is unlikely to be bettered any time soon.
Repertoire: String Quartets Nos. 15 and 19, ‘Dissonance’; Divertimento in F
Artist: The Hagen Quartet, Quatuor Ebène
Label: Virgin 0709222
The Music: Two blazing quartet masterpieces composed especially for Haydn, on which Mozart lavished an unprecedented amount of care and attention to detail, are coupled with an early divertimento delight.
The Performances: For combined beauty of sound and interpretative fantasy that retains its classical composure at all times, the Hagen Quartet (Dg, 477 6253) set the bar at a new high level. By comparison, Quatuor Ebène give nothing away in terms of technical finesse, but the players are more ripely expressive and willing to explore the music’s emotional highs and lows. If the Hagens excite the senses with their revelatory insights into where this music had originally sprung from, the Ebène players point the way forward to the enhanced emotional intensity of the romantic era.
The Verdict: For readings that combine the best of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ it is difficult to imagine these remarkable performances ever being surpassed. Exemplary engineering provides the icing on the cake.
Want More? Quatuor Bène’s debut album for Virgin of Debussy, Ravel and Fauré is another winner (519 0452).