The Strad issue
Mozart, Schubert, Debussy, Wolf
It is unsurprising that the members of the Formosa Quartet, winners of the London International String Quartet Competition last year, were also awarded that competition’s Amadeus Prize for the best Mozart performance. In this debut disc, their imaginative account of Mozart’s G major Quartet K387 is spellbinding. But they also convey with seasoned skill the drama, poetry and lyricism of Schubert’s Quartettsatz and inject Wolf’s Italian Serenade not only with breathtaking vitality and athleticism but also with a true joie de vivre.
These players’ Mozart performance, though, is the pièce de résistance. They articulate the flexible phrase structures of the opening movement with commendable intelligence and blend. Further, they realise the finale’s stylistic opposition of fugato and dance sections with wit and polish and contrast the various characters of the spacious Minuet and trio with great effect. Their calm, contemplative slow movement lives up to its cantabile billing and they shape its wealth of melodic material and subsequent elaborations with warmth and elegance, incorporating some pleasing rubato.
Violinists Jasmine and Joseph Lin swap parts for their account of Debussy’s Quartet, Jasmine assuming the leader’s role. However, for all their clean-limbed virtuosity and undoubted commitment, the Formosa players have yet to explore the full extent of Debussy’s expressive palette. Its first movement seems somewhat over-played, and its Andantino is comparatively bland, the climax lacking the emotional temperature of more established ensembles. The Scherzo and finale, though, are vital and spirited. The recording has a warm sound and plenty of body and presence.