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Graceful charm

The Talich Quartet plays Mozart, reviewed by RON BIERMAN

Calliope    CAL 5246

Hommage - Le Quatuor Talich - Les 6 Quatuors 'milanais' - Mozart. © 2003 Calliope

I should never take on reviews of Mozart when the performances are as fine as these. I neglect other CDs, bills that need to be paid and also my wife. Then when I finally recover, sated with repeated listens, it's so much harder to give the benefit of the doubt to the next composer I hear, whether a forgotten Baroque genius or the latest never-to-be-remembered contemporary genius.

On the other hand it is an easy review to write. The CD is a bargain-priced reissue of one originally released ten years ago. The sound is as good as the performance. If you like Mozart string quartets played on contemporary instruments, buy these. I could end there, and you might, but of course I won't.

The six 'Milan' quartets were composed in 1772-3 during Mozart's third trip to Italy (album notes say second, but who's counting). They display the Italian influence of G B Sammartini and others, for example in the extended minuets concluding K156 and K158 [listen -- track 12, 0:00-0:47]. All are in three movements and the longest quartet is a little over fourteen minutes. Mozart was sixteen when he started writing them. I feel substantially less inadequate knowing he was seventeen by the time he finished. Maybe the opera he was delivering to Milan slowed him down.

So these are youthful works, of graceful charm rather than profound depths, but a delight in any event [listen -- track 9, 1:00-1:48]. Recording companies seem to believe even Mozart can't have been as good as he actually was at sixteen, so there aren't many competing performances. The Eder Quartet mixes the six Milan quartets in with others on three Naxos disks. The performances are good, but easily bettered by the Talich because of more intimate sound and slightly faster tempos that fit the style better. Quartetto Italiano is stronger competition, but available only as part of a complete set.

Not to worry. As I said before, if you like Mozart string quartets played on contemporary instruments, buy these. And this time I will end there.

Copyright © 5 July 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


Mozart: Les Six Quatuors 'milanais'

CAL 5246 DDD Stereo 72'50" 2003 Calliope

The Talich Quartet: Petr Messiereur and Jan Kvapil, violin, Jan Talich, viola, Evzen Rattay, cello

Quartet K155 in D; Quartet K156; Quartet K157; Quartet K158 in F; Quartet K159; Quartet K160


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Saturday series of shorter CD reviews