The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Revelations abound in this revival of Mendelssohn’s first thoughts on his Octet
Musicians: Eroica Quartet: Ken Aiso, Marcus Barcham-Stevens (violin) Oliver Wilson (viola) Robin Michael (cello)
Composer: Mendelssohn

The world’s first solely digital classical label launches its online sales appropriately with a world premiere recording. Using Mendelssohn’s autograph of the original 1825 version of his Octet as their text, the Eroica Quartet and friends offer us fresh insights into this work’s period performance and its composer’s creative process. For the Octet underwent substantial revision before its publication (1832), several passages being excised, added or rewritten with greater concision and overall structural balance in mind.

These performers may surprise with their portamentos, vibrato usage, bowing styles and characteristically ‘vocal’ period style. But their playing, if not faultless, is a revelation. Intonation and ensemble are generally good, even in the tell-tale lengthy unison passage immediately before the first movement’s recapitulation, and the musicians offer a bracing, warmly expressive interpretation of truly symphonic scope. Their opening movement has a striking urgency, with Eroica first violinist Peter Hanson demonstrating the bravura of a concerto soloist, and their Andante has all the requisite pathos.

Their scherzo, differing little from the 1832 version, is fleet and ethereal, and their finale, beginning with a frantic fugato, is driven through to an exhilarating conclusion. The remarkably detailed and intimate recording is available from the website in a range of formats from mp3 to lossless studio quality.