The Strad Issue: November 2014
Description: Polished accounts of three of Mozart's 'Haydn' quartets
Musicians: Casals Quartet
Composer: Mozart
Catalogue Number: HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902186

This triptych of Mozart performances is of the highest calibre, captured by a close recording whose revealing detail exposes no weakness among the players. Unanimity and blend are impressive throughout. Although tempos are on the cautious side – notably for the Allegro vivace finale of K428 and the Menuetto of K387, which is more like the Allegretto listed on the track details than the Allegro mentioned in the booklet notes – they are generally well judged, enabling these players to invest their accounts with care for phrasing and imaginative musical detail. In K387, for example, leader Abel TomÁ s Realp shines in the expressive cantilena and decorative passagework of the Andante cantabile, and the finale’s combination of fugal sections with buffa elements is  well conveyed.

The accounts of K465 and K428 maintain contact with Classical sensibility and offer numerous examples of fine musicianship. The players’ treatment of the harmonic audacities and off-beat emphases of K465’s opening Adagio is striking, as are their communication of the harmonic subtleties of the first movement of K428 and their realisation of the rhythmic patterns and dynamic contrasts of K465’s Menuetto. They are sprightly in K465’s finale, playing with vitality and spontaneity, avoiding expressive mannerism but consistently performing with musical insight and polish.