Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
The Haydn Project [141.29]
1. String Quartet No. 23 in F minor, Op. 20/5, H. 3/35
2. String Quartet No. 30 in E flat major "Joke" Op. 33/2, H. 3/38
3. String Quartet No. 43 in G major, Op. 54/1, H. 3/58
4. String Quartet No. 53 in D major "Lark" Op. 64/5, H. 3/63

1. String Quartet No. 59 in G minor "Rider"/"Horseman" Op. 74/3, H. 3/74
2. String Quartet No. 61 in D minor "Fifths"/"The Bell"/"The Donkey" Op. 76/2, H. 3/76
3. String Quartet No. 66 in G major "Lobkowitz" Op. 77/1, H. 3/81

Emerson Quartet
Eugene Drucker, violin
Philip Setzer, violin
Lawrence Dutton, viola
David Finckel, cello
Rec.: LeFrak Concert Hall, Queens College, NY, 2000-01
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 471 327-2 [141.29]

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Even though the Emerson Quartet has been together for 25 years, they have only recorded one quartet by Joseph Haydn, the father of the string quartet. Here, in "celebration" of their 25th anniversary, they release a double-CD containing seven of Haydn’s finest quartets.

It is hard to remain impassive when listening to this recording. The Emerson quartet exudes such energy that one is held rapt by their enthusiasm. Some of the movements are carefully crafted works of subtle harmony and counterpoint; others are rhythmic displays of vitality and liveliness.

The Emerson quartet capture both the vibrant energy of the early quartets and the intensity of the later works. The brilliant final movement of the op. 20 no. 5 quartet, a two-part fugue played so magnificently here that I could not keep myself from listening to it over and over. The first movement of the op. 77 no. 1 quartet in G major is a brilliant piece with cascading melodies, and is superbly played, with perfect dynamics and a foot-tapping rhythm.

The sound is so perfect that one feels very close to the music, as if the performers were right next to the listener. As violinist Philip Setzer says in the liner notes, "recording [brings] an intimacy to the listening experience. …the microphone is closely placed, and most people listen to this music in their living room. It brings the music back to the ‘drawing room’, the salon. In that way, the recording is more accurate than a performance in a big concert hall." The sound indeed seems to be designed with this in mind. On headphones, the soundscape of the quartet is magnificent, each instrument clearly in its own location, and the subtleties of the music heard perfectly. This is one of the finest quartet recordings I have ever heard, both in the actual sound and in the dynamics of the performers. Few quartets can boast such unity and texture.

There is great joy in this recording; the joy of a group of four tight musicians, who get into a groove and want to share their love for the music. This is no pedantic performance - the Emerson quartet vibrates with energy.

A magnificent recording, which deserves the utmost attention. While it is unlikely that the Emerson Quartet will record a complete set of Haydn’s quartets, one must hope that they will add more of them to their discography. This is a real gem.

(Note: this set also includes a sampler CD of other recordings by the Emerson Quartet.)

Kirk McElhearn

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