Alongside its ongoing and much lauded Haydn and Schubert series, both on-stage and on-record, the Doric String Quartet with this Mendelssohn album is adding a new milestone in its repertoire. Mendelssohn wrote and published these three quartets at very different stages in his life and they therefore outline the complete trajectory of his creative output. The early Op. 12, also called No. 1, was composed in London and includes many musical allusions to Beethoven, dead only a few years before its composition. These subtly contrast with Mendelssohn’s genially flowing energy. While Op. 44 No. 3, which incorporates many deft variations, developments, and combinations, follows an extended honeymoon tour and Mendelssohn’s twenty-ninth birthday, Op. 80 emerged from a bout of helpless depression after the sudden death of Mendelssohn’s older sister and confidante, Fanny. Mendelssohn described this quartet as a Requiem, and the nervous agitation often found in his music here bursts forth with full force.
The six string quartets of Béla Bartók mark a high point in the genre, and even though their myriad technical demands, rhythmic complexity, and bracing dissonances are no longer obstacles to frequent performance, they still present a major challenge for any string quartet. The Heath Quartet has been performing since 2002, and it has considerable experience with repertoire ranging from Beethoven to contemporary music, though this 2017 set on Harmonia Mundi shows that even after 15 years of music-making, these musicians can still be in awe of Bartók's achievement.
Antonio Bazzini, violinist and composer, was born in Brescia on 11 March 1818 and died in Milan on 10 February. The works for string quartet performed by Quartetto Bazzini on this recording are No. 1 without an opus number and No. 3 Op. 76. On listening to these two works, we can understand and appreciate Bazzini’s mastery as a composer: the solo parts are skilfully distributed among the string instruments, and we can detect an influence of French and German instrumental music, filtered by his creative genius, which is never predictable or recognisable.