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Mendelssohn: String Quartets No. 1 in E flat major & No. 4 in E minor / Escher String Quartet

Album Summary

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings no 1 in E flat major, Op. 12
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings in E flat major
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings no 4 in E minor, Op. 44 no 2
Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Founded in 2005, the Escher String Quartet is still a young ensemble as string quartets go. It has nevertheless become established as one of the most exciting quartets around, both in its home country, the U.S.A., and elsewhere, recently being shortlisted for a BBC Music Magazine Award. With their début disc on BIS, the Eschers launch a three-disc cycle of Mendelssohn's string quartets, including the unnumbered String Quartet in E flat major and - on coming installments - the four pieces for string quartet Op.81. The quartet genre accompanied Mendelssohn throughout his life, from the previously mentioned E flat major quartet - which he composed at the age of 14 - to String Quartet No.6 in F minor, his last major work, completed only two months before his death in 1847. As a body, the quartets demonstrate many of Mendelssohn's finest qualities as a composer - his fascination for and understanding of the music of both Bach and Beethoven, his affinity for string instruments, and that gift for melody as well as texture which has made his Lieder ohne Worte and the elfin music to A Midsummer Night's Dream so eternally popular. Composed in 1829, the Quartet Op.12 is still an early work - from the time of the Hebrides Overture - while the E minor quartet, Op.44 No.2, can be counted as one of the first master-pieces by the mature composer.

The Guardian, 11th June 2015
The Eschers sound warm, relaxed and responsive to all of Mendelssohn's expressive nuances...They lavish full, red-blooded tone on the slow movement of the genial Quartet No 1, and in the restless Quartet No 4 they keep the momentum striving forward, with first violinist Adam Barnett-Hart spinning long, seamless phrases.

BBC Music Magazine, August 2015
This is full-blooded quartet playing in the grand, classic manner; extrovert and eloquent. Rich tone, good balance and a particularly noteworthy expressiveness from the first violin, Adam Barnett-Hart, who offers that rare ability not only to sing but also to speak through the instrument.

Gramophone Magazine, August 2015
The Escher are fervent advocates of [the E flat Quartet], imbuing the slow movement with a luxuriant warmth... there's no doubting the players' musicianship or technical ability, which are caught with admirable immediacy.

America Record Guide, November/December 2015

America Record Guide, November/December 2015
I loved the Escher's reading of Zemlinsky's first two quartets (Nov/Dec 2014), and I love this also... They have an old-world sound that recalls the recordings of the great quartets of the past century: dry, crisp, joyful, and very articulate... it is an attractive piece worth hearing.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (04/2014).



Reviews

Pure Musical Expression
An ingratiating lyricism combined with an innate sense of classical proportion informs the works of Mendelssohn. The composer certainly knew how to spin a memorable tune. By the same token, he successfully incorporated and, indeed, built upon the various formal designs of his predecessors, i.e., Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. To those of Mendelssohn’s generation, the string quartet embodied the apex of pure musical expression, unencumbered by any extraneous distractions; music distilled to its pure essentials, so to speak. This is the initial volume in a series devoted to the complete string quartets of the composer featuring the Escher Quartet who derive their name from the enigmatic Dutch artist, M.C. Escher. Volume 1 features an early, unpublished effort, flanked by 2 mature works. The members of the Escher do an excellent job in mining the many virtues of this important, transitional music. They play with measured fervor and nuance. Ensemble, intonation, balance and overall tone production are of a high order. Since its initial release, some years back, the Emerson’s traversal of the complete Mendelssohn string quartets has been one of the standard versions. Interestingly enough, it was the Emerson Quartet who encouraged and lobbied on behalf of the Escher in their quest for international recognition. Based upon this initial release, the Emerson may be headed for some serious competition. The sound engineering, especially in its Super Audio format, is three dimensional and extremely lifelike. The liner notes are insightful and very well written.
Submitted on 07/10/15 by Allen Cohen 
Energetically played music from Mendelssohn!
This CD consists of 3 string quartets writeen by Felix Mendelssohn and performed by the excellent and driven Escher String Quartet. String Quartet #1 in E-flat Major, Op. 12, is not the first String Quartet that Mendelssohn wrote, despite the nomenclature. More details on this are found in the well-written and informative liner notes. But musically, the first movement is so characteristically Mendelssohnion in both its development and rhythmic patterns that the Allegretto 2nd movement seems naturally energetic and almost nobly spritely. The 3rd movement, Andante espressivo, is most certainly expressive and heartfelt as performed by the Escher, and the way they bring this section to life just seems “right”. The 4th movement brings this piece to a gentle close.

The 2nd piece is the earliest piece written, the Quartet in E-flat Major MWV R18. The 2nd movement I found particularly captivating, between the marvelous descent into the lower register and the sweetness of the violin shortly thereafter. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the Minuetto 3rd movement, that just warmly makes itself intellectually felt. And the 4th movement “Fuga” is just delightful.

The last piece on this recording is the Quartet in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2. The 1st movement is filled with frenetic energy, requiring deft timing and teamed virtuosity from the Escher Quartet, and they show that they are most definitely up to the task. It is also clear from the 3rd movement that gentle and driven sonorities are something that this group also does well, as the give and take in this movement is gorgeously presented here. And the 4th movement is filled with frenetic energy as called for by the composer, the kind of playing that is guaranteed to have a live audience on the edge of their seats. This is good, solid work, and a treat to listen to.
This is a SACD and I have to tip my hat to the recording engineer here, as the recording is lively and warm, and while nothing compares to the feeling of a live chamber music concert, this disc captures that feeling as well as I feel it can be captured given the differences between a stereo reproduction and the effects of a lively hall. This is a marvelous recording, and if you enjoy Mendelssohn’s string quartets then this disc is for you. Very Highly Recommended!

Submitted on 10/07/15 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings no 1 in E flat major, Op. 12
  • Ensemble: Escher String Quartet
  • Running Time: 24 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 09/14/1829

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings in E flat major
  • Running Time: 27 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: circa 03/05/1823

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Quartet for Strings no 4 in E minor, Op. 44 no 2
  • Running Time: 27 min. 37 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 06/18/1837