A few years ago I bought Haydn's string quartets opus 17 performed by the
Quatuor Festetics, an Hungarian group specializing in period instrument
performances of classical-era chamber music. I found that set illuminating
and superb. Now, the Quatuor Festetics, again on Arcana, give us Haydn's
six opus 9 string quartets.
This might well be the first recording of the opus 9 set on period
instruments. It is an incisive performance of delightful music which
easily found its way to my heart on its first hearing. The pungency of
the string instruments is irresistable, and the Festetics bring out all
the drama inherent in this music.
Although not a universal opinion, I've read that Haydn's masterful
reputation for string quartet composition really begins with opus 20. I
can't agree with that. Both opus 17 and 9 consist of superb works which
are not immature or low on emotional content. From the opening notes of
any of these twelve string quartets, I'm aware that I'm listening to a
The Quatuor Festetics is one of a few groups which have extensively
recorded both Haydn and Mozart string quartets. They initially recorded
for Harnmonia Mundi(Quintana) Haydn's opus 33 and 64 quartets. Since
then, Arcana has been their recording source. Some folks may prefer the
Mosaiques or the Salomon, but the Festetics are at that high level, and
their recordings are a treat not to be missed.
Don's Conclusion: Unless you are only a fan of Haydn's most mature
string quartets, the opus 9 set by the Festetics is a must-buy for period
instrument affectionados. Among modern instrument recordings, the Kodaly
on Naxos and the Tatrai on Hungaroton provide the entire set; my preference
is for the Tatrai.
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