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The Philharmonia Quartett Berlin represents a direct link to the music's creative roots. Composed of members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Daniel Strabrawa and Christian Stadelmann, violins; Neithard Resa, viola; and Jan Diesselhorst, cello), this group's warm, rich string sound conjures up another world. Their music making is less concerned with surface brilliance than with Old World charm and musical ambience. The lustrous string sound of the Berlin Orchestra was instilled by Herbert von Karajan, enriched by Claudio Abbado, and is now being retooled by Sir Simon Rattle. The four members of that famous string section have been deeply imbued with a distinctive approach to Brahms's music. It was wonderful to hear their tender, whole hearted embrace of the Poco Allegretto con Variazioni finale. The musical passion of an entire era seemed to permeate the performance. The lower strings (particularly Resa's unusually prominent viola) were highly distinguished. The performance was compromised by Strabrawa's uncertain intonation and sometimes dry tone.

The Berlin foursome's best offering was Mozart's Quartet in G K387 -- the first of the 'Haydn quartets' -- Mozart's tribute to the father of the string quartet. From the opening notes of the Allegro vivace assai, the Berlin players conjured up Mozart in the best Viennese manner. (There has always been intense competition between the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras when it comes to Mozart performances.) The Menuetto: Allegretto had true European elegance and grace -- qualities often lacking in the performances of more high powered string quartets. The Andante cantabile had an almost operatic quality. (Violinist-conductor Alexander Schneider once noted that all of Mozart's music derives from opera.) The concluding Molto allegro was vigorously played but did not lack wit and charm. Truly idiomatic Mozart bathed in warmly sonorous tonal hues!

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Copyright © 7 February 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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