CDs of Haydn and Mozart reviewed

A NEW HAYDN CD DELIGHTS NORMAN STINCHCOMBE, MOZART DISAPPOINTS




HAYDN: Dudok Quartet (Resonus Classics RES10262) ★★★★★



Haydn's later string quartets have eclipsed the Op.20 set from 1772 but, as the booklet to this second disc in the Dudok's survey says, their importance in the history of classical music "can hardly be overestimated". Here Haydn liberates the viola and cello from their subordinate roles, achieving Goethe's ideal of a four-sided musical conversation. And with what diversity – music for church, court and folk are re-contextualized – such wit and what larks! No.4 in D major begins with the expected allegro which then unexpectedly becomes a theme and variations. Listen to the young Dutch quartet's joie de vivre in the miniature gypsy minuet and try no to smile in the madcap whirligig scherzando. The Dudok's variety of tone and colour brings out the solemnity of No.6's fugal finale while the lighter No.1's Affettuoso et sostenuto is sveltely beautiful. For a recording on modern instruments this is the set to get.

Norman Stinchcombe



MOZART: Davidson / Lenehan / NSO / Sushanskya (Guild GMCD7817) ★★

The National Symphony Orchestra has a "firmly established national and international reputation" – so their website tells me. They play on QE2 cruises, and at amplified concerts supporting Katherine Jenkins, Robbie Williams and an Abba tribute band. After that, recording 78 minutes of Mozart must have been a benediction for these hard working professionals. The performances here would pass muster at a classical pops concert but are simply not competitive on disc. Rimma Sushanskya conducts a dutiful but dull performance of the Symphony No.40 with a drama-free andante shorn of repeats. John Lenehan is the soloist in the Piano Concerto No.21 – the slowest I've heard especially in the outer movements – thoroughly competent but with little poetry and Mozart's marvellous wind writing is rendered quite plain. Grace Davidson's sweet and mellifluous soprano makes Exsultate, jubilate the disc's highlight. The recording, made at Henry Wood Hall and engineered by Tony Faulkner, is excellent.

Norman Stinchcombe

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