Pleyel “Prussian” Quartets

Review by: John Greene


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Ignaz Pleyel was a very highly regarded, prolific composer in his day. String quartets were one of his specialties (he wrote between 60 and 70 depending on your source), a genre that sparked his interest while first a student of Vanhal, and then blossomed shortly after he became one of Haydn’s star pupils in 1772. While very few of Pleyel’s quartets are performed today, let alone recorded, his 12 “Prussian” quartets were regarded by his contemporaries as among his most inspired and accomplished. Three of these receive their CD premiere performances here by the Pleyel Quartett Köln.

Pleyel’s expertise is evident from the outset. The opening Allegro con spirito movement of the Quartet in C major begins unassumingly enough with a brief slow, stately march that soon evolves into a series of creative, often unpredictable variations. The inner Romance cantabile movement of the Quartet in A is equally fascinating, with its broadly paced, intensely slow legato, at times pausing demurely (that stunning five-second silence at 3:40 is especially sly) to wonderful effect. Throughout the program Pleyel’s craftsmanship and stylish invention are always apparent, and I can’t imagine anyone interested in chamber music of this period not enjoying this offering.

CPO’s sound is excellent, with richly detailed instrumentation in a very life-like, convincing acoustic setting. This is the Pleyel Quartett Köln’s second installment (they’ve previously recorded Quartets 7-9 for CPO) in what promises to be a complete cycle of Pleyel’s “Prussian” quartets. If so, we have much to look forward to.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

    Pleyel Quartett Köln

  • CPO - 777 551-2
  • CD

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