Dover Quartet Pays Tribute Via Mozart

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

In these days of complete everything and “big box” releases, it’s delightful to find a single-disc release of select works that permits us to savor them individually, just for themselves. Designed in tribute to its mentors, the Guarneri String Quartet (whose violist Michael Tree makes a special guest appearance in the C minor quintet), the Dover Quartet couldn’t have managed the gesture more graciously.

I confess that I am not usually a fan of Mozart’s last quartets. They strike me as somewhat fussy and “bottom heavy”–but not here. These are lively, beautifully balanced performances, the contrapuntal interplay in the first movement of K. 589 rendered as genuine dialogue, while K. 590’s Allegro moderato demonstrates that the “moderate” bit need not preclude a healthy jolt of rhythmic energy. Both slow movements really sing too, at perfectly judged tempos. I played this disc several times and the interpretations only seem to grow in stature.

The C minor quintet may sound more menacing in its original version for wind ensemble, but again the playing generates a welcome level of expressive tension. Perhaps it’s the timbre of the ensemble: warm and immaculately tuned, but with just a touch of grit. There’s always a tendency in Mozart to play too smoothly on modern instruments, and to go to the opposite extreme in “historically informed” (or should I say “deformed”) versions. The Dover Quartet strikes just the right balance. In short, here’s a disc, splendidly engineered, that reminds us why we first came to love this music.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Talich Quartet (La Dolce Vita)

  • Michael Tree (viola)
  • Dover Quartet

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