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MENDELSSOHN // The Complete String Quartets

Talich Quartet,

Lively yet sensitive, generously coupled sets. An incredible bargain !

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Mendelssohn’s quartets have been receiving a good bit of attention on disc, and for good reason. They are the finest works in their medium between Beethoven and Dvořák, and one of them, the F minor quartet Op. 80, just might be Mendelssohn’s finest instrumental work in any form.
More consistent in quality than his symphonies, elegant and shapely, these quartets deserve much wider exposure, and no set makes a better case for them than this one.

The sound quality is extremely natural, warm, and present, with remarkably little extraneous performance noise – in short, an essential set for lovers of great chamber music and great quartet playing.


CD 1

String Quartet in E-flat major (1823)


  • Allegro moderato 7’28
  • Adagio non troppo 6’22
  • Menuetto and Trio 5’33
  • Fuga 3’25


String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13 (1827)


  • Adagio – Allegro vivace 7’46
  • Adagio non lento 6’49
  • Intermezzo : Allegretto con moto 4’44
  • Presto – Adagio non lento 9’51


String Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 12 (1829)


  • Adagio non troppo – Allegro non tardante 7’59
  • Canzonetta : Allegretto 3’36
  • Andante espressivo 4’20
  • Molto allegro e vivace 7’36
CD 2

String Quartet No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44 No. 2 (1837)


  • Allegro assai appassionato 6’58
  • Scherzo : Allegro di molto 3’40
  • Andante 6’49
  • Presto agitato 5’58


String Quartet No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 44 No. 3 (1838)


  • Allegro vivace 8’51
  • Scherzo : Assai leggiero vivace 4’12
  • Adagio non troppo 8’39
  • Molto allegro con fuoco 8’25


String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44 No. 1 (1838)


  • Molto allegro vivace 9’01
  • Menuetto : un poco allegretto 5’34
  • Andante espressivo ma con moto 5′ 21
  • Presto con brio 6’33
CD 3

String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80 (1847)


  • Allegro vivace assai 6’43
  • Allegro assai 4’02
  • Adagio 7’15
  • Finale : Allegro molto 5’32


4 Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 81 (1827-1847)


  • Andante en Mi major 5’03
  • Scherzo en La mineur 3’24
  • Capriccio en Mi mineur 5’35
  • Fuga en Mi bémol majeur 6’02



Launched last year, La Dolce Volta is a French label that for some reason sports the silhouette of a motor scooter as its logo. Its catalogue mixes new recordings and reissues, and the Talich Quartet features prominently in both categories. This set of Mendelssohn’s eight quartets (the E flat major work from 1823 is included, as well as those with opus numbers) first appeared in the early years of the century on the Calliope label. It wears wonderfully well. In its latest incarnation under Jan Talich Jr, son of the group’s founder, the Talich remains a model of instinctively musical, utterly democratic quartet playing. The detail etched into each work here is startling, yet none of it is delivered with the kind of look-at-me self-consciousness with
which some groups invest their performances.
The freshness of the Op 12 and Op 13 quartets, the mature sweep of the three Op 44 works, and the sense of tragedy and loss that’s barely disguised in both the F minor Quartet Op 80 and the Four Pieces Op 81, are all presented in a totally natural yet revealing way.


Here is a set of brilliant but not dazzling performances of Mendelssohn’s Op 44 Quartets: that is to say, they illuminate the music but never blind the listener with empty demonstration of the player’s virtuosity. Certainly the speeds are fast, but the fingerwork is so deft and the textures (helped by excellent recording) so lucid that everything Mendelssohn asks for is clear. Of the three works in this marvellous set, it is the third, in E flat (No 5), which stands highest, with one of the finest of all his first movements and an Adagio of a pensiveness that the players reflect in their just tempo and in the slight greying of their tone. The scherzo and the finale (Allegro con fuoco) are classic examples of how the rigorous contrapuntal teaching which Mendelssohn received in his youth from old Carl Zelter gave him the technique for music of not merely pace but of the wit and ingenuity that comes from real cleverness. It is music to enliven the spirit, and so is this performances of it.
The quartet’s sense of tempo serves them well in the D major Quartet. Mendelssohn’s own favourite, with a Menuetto whose harmonic originality encourages a certain wistfulness in the playing, and in the E minor Quartet with an Andante that keeps gently moving (Mendelssohn particularly marked it nicht schleppend, ” not dragging’). One might regret that none of the first movement repeats are observed, but as there is already 80 minutes’ music here, such a complaint would be unreasonable. Included in the booklet is a long, excellent historical and descriptive note, which has been translated (as it notoriously not always the case) into good English prose. Altogether an outstanding issue.


Mendelssohn quartets are hard to find on CD. But a new release of three op. 44 quartets by the Talich Quartet offers terrific playing and outstanding sound. The interpretations are spontaneous enough to seem live.


The Talich Quartet throws itself with passion and energy into Mendelssohn’s Quartets, Op. 44. From the phantasmagoric scherzos to the locomotive propulsion of the finales, it feels as if there’s more music here than we have a right to expect.


Mendelssohn quartets are hard to find on CD. But a new release of three op. 44 quartets by the Talich Quartet offers terrific playing and outstanding sound. The interpretations are spontaneous enough to seem live.


The Talich Quartet’s powerful committed performances emphasise the strongly Beethovenian provenance of the two youthful String Quartets, Opp. 12 & 13.
Fantastically clear articulation, coupled with warm engineering.


The Talich Quartet, a Bohemian soul


‘The Conservatory of Europe’ – that used to be the nickname of Bohemia. At the heart of central Europe, a people dedicated itself wholly to the art of melody. In the nineteenth century, when Czech musicians were recognised as great composers as well as performers, they gave birth to a repertory steeped in traditions, its inspiration passed on from generation to generation.


Václav Talich, a conductor of genius, was one of the most prominent central European artists in the following century. In 1964, Talich’s nephew Jan founded the string quartet that bears his name. In 1975 it became a chamber ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic, a distinction that quickly gained it international recognition. France became its second home, and thanks to the Calliope label it made some of the great benchmark recordings in the quartet discography, from Mozart to Janáček. La Dolce Volta has since taken up the torch and pursues an adventure too exciting to be interrupted.


For half a century now, even though the bows have changed hands, the quartet’s personality has displayed marked stylistic continuity: spontaneous expressiveness, delicious unpredictability of attack, telling accentuation of folk rhythms, absolute precision and, equally, a sensation of miraculous fragility. Throughout the years, the Talich Quartet has remained the ambassador of a prodigious musical history, nourished by the memory of the torrents and castles of Bohemia, of tales and legends, and of the passions of the Czech people even before it was established as a nation in the aftermath of the First World War. The quartet’s multi-award-winning recordings mirror their interpretation of Janáček’s Second Quartet, ‘Intimate Letters’: the most enchanting of conversations in music.

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