Performances that combine immaculate technique with passion and insight

Minetti Quartet: Berg, Ligeti. Shostakovich


The Strad Issue: February 2024

Description: Performances that combine immaculate technique with passion and insight

Musicians: Minetti Quartet

Works: Berg: String Quartet op.3. Ligeti: String Quartet no.1 ‘Métamorphoses nocturnes’. Shostakovich: String Quartet no.7

Catalogue number: HÄNSSLER CLASSIC HC23060

While the US-based Verona Quartet (reviewed on page 90) offers an all-Ligeti release, Vienna’s Minetti Quartet opts for a more varied programme that culminates in the composer’s very Bartókian First Quartet. In many ways, the two groups’ approaches to the work are similarly clean, crisp and precise, though the Minetti probably has the edge in terms of extremity of emotion and piercing clarity. It’s a performance of quite staggering insight and power, unfolding as a succession of tense build-ups and partial releases, never denying the composer’s delightful, at times magical humour, yet adding a gurning grotesqueness in forceful projections of his more extreme sonic demands. It’s as if the Minetti players step back from imposing an interpretation, focusing instead on delivering the detail of Ligeti’s wild musical imaginings, and end up with an even more bristling, crackling account as a result.

The disc’s earlier pieces are no less persuasive: there’s a certain hard-edged drive to the Berg quartet, which serves to pick apart the piece’s complex atonal counterpoint brilliantly, but it’s combined with an expert sense of flux and flow in the work’s hot-headed emotionalism. The Minetti is far cooler in Shostakovich’s Seventh Quartet from 1960, at least in its clipped opening movement and ghostly second, though the players let rip in a furious finale that slumps resignedly into a movingly hushed conclusion. The musicians are captured in clear, warm sound.