Sunday, March 12, 2017

Felix Mendelssohn; Fanny Mendelssohn - String Quartets (Quatuor Ebène)


Information

Composer: Felix Mendelssohn; Fanny Mendelssohn
  1. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13: 1. Adagio - Allegro vivace
  2. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13: 2. Adagio non lento
  3. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13: 3. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
  4. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13: 4. Presto
  5. Fanny Mendelssohn - String Quartet in E flat major: 1. Adagio ma non troppo
  6. Fanny Mendelssohn - String Quartet in E flat major: 2. Scherzo. Allegretto
  7. Fanny Mendelssohn - String Quartet in E flat major: 3. Romanze
  8. Fanny Mendelssohn - String Quartet in E flat major: 4. Allegro molto vivace
  9. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80: 1. Allegro vivace assai
  10. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80: 2. Allegro assai
  11. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80: 3. Adagio
  12. Felix Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80: 4. Finale. Allegro molto

Quatuor Ebène
Pierre Colombet, violin
Gabriel Le Magadure, violin
Mathieu Herzog, viola
Raphaël Merlin, cello

Date: 2013
Label: Erato (original on Virgin Classics)

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Review

Felix Mendelssohn’s first published quartet, No. 2 in A Minor, from 1827, is perhaps the best known of his six. Opening this splendidly engineered disc, it serves to introduce the technically impeccable, passionate playing of the Ebène Quartet. It’s followed by Fanny Mendelssohn’s E?-Quartet from 1834, a work that’s more a succession of separate, unrelated movements than a fully integrated whole, comparable to Felix’s Four Pieces for String Quartet, op. 81. Its first movement is quite touching, shares a melodic motive with the first movement of Felix’s F?-Minor Fantasy, op. 28, and has the feeling of a slow introduction. The second movement, Felix’s favorite of the four, is an accomplished scherzo in moderate tempo. The third and fourth movements, an intense Romanze and an Allegro moderato finale, are more extensively developed, and, according to Fanny, inspired by Beethoven’s late works. It’s a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s beautiful work in such a vivid performance. Its turbulent last movement makes a fine segue into Felix’s far stormier op. 80 quartet from 1847, written in anguished reaction to Fanny’s death. 

The Ebène Quartet’s Mendelssohn exemplifies what I think of as a “Marlboro” style, in which young, technically fearless musicians play every note as if their life depends on it, often with extraordinarily mature sounding results. (There may be a Marlboro connection in that the Ebène Quartet, who have been an ensemble for 13 years, are beneficiaries of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, the sponsor of this recording, in which the great Mitsuko Uchida—co-director of the Marlboro school and festival—has played a part. She’s thanked in the “dedication” section of the CD booklet.) 

In a review of their Mozart ( Fanfare 35:4), Jerry Dubins criticized the Ebène for playing “with an agenda” in which gratuitous ritards and other affectations were imposed on the music. Happily, that isn’t the case here. If there’s any agenda to their Mendelssohn, it’s to put to rest the notion of Mendelssohn as a “classical” (i.e., restrained) romantic, by showing that his quartets can be as powerful in expression as Schumann’s or Brahms’s.

In all three quartets, the Ebène urgently brings the music to life, as much in gentler, lyrical sections as in brilliant ones, always with maximum color and contrast. The feeling of repose found in the Talich Quartet’s op. 13 is missing, and perhaps the Ebène drives and accentuates op. 80’s second movement too exaggeratedly, but I forgive them. I am particularly impressed by the security and confidence of the Ebène’s two first violinists; Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure, who switch off. Le Magadure plays first violin in op. 13, providing maximum focus to the group’s strongly defined balance. By comparison, Broadus Earle, the first violinist of the The New Music Quartet, whose admirable op. 13 is beautifully restored on Pristine Audio, is a less intrepid guide, comparatively reticent. The Ebène’s performances are the equal of the Emerson, Pacifica, Leipzig, or Henschel Quartets in their excellent and relatively recent Mendelssohn recordings. We are in a period of revival of these great works on disc, and if there is to be a continuing cycle by the Ebène Quartet, it could turn out to be the most brilliant of all. 

-- Paul Orgel, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/mendelssohn-string-quartets
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Mar13/Mendelssohn_quartets_4645462.htm
http://www.classical-music.com/review/felix-mendelssohn-%E2%80%A2-fanny-mendelssohn-hensel
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/feb/07/mendelssohn-string-quartets-review
http://www.allmusic.com/album/felix-fanny-mendelssohn-mw0002463748
http://www.amazon.com/Fanny-Felix-Mendelssohn/dp/B00A6KGDDM

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Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. He was among the most popular composers of the Romantic era. Like Mozart, he was recognized early as a musical prodigy. Mendelssohn enjoyed early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and in his travels throughout Europe. He was particularly well received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, visited there ten times. His essentially conservative musical tastes, however, set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries.

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Fanny Mendelssohn [Hensel] (14 November 1805 – 14 May 1847) was a German pianist and composer, the sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn. She composed over 460 pieces of music, include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her songs were originally published under Felix's name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. In recent years, her music has become better known thanks to concert performances and a number of CDs being released on labels such as Hyperion and CPO.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Mendelssohn

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Quatuor Ébène was founded in 1999 at the Boulogne-Billancourt Conservatory in France. The group first came to international attention in 2004 when it won first prize in the string quartet category at the ARD International Music Competition. In 2009, the quartet was named "Newcomer of the Year" by BBC Music Magazine for its recording of the Ravel, Fauré, and Debussy string quartets. The group is known for its versatility and performs a variety of genres, such as classical music, contemporary music, jazz, and crossover.

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