Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart String Quartets|
Actors: Mozart, Hagen Quartet
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
No Mozart collection is complete without these 6 quartets which were dedicated to Joseph Haydn. — 204 minuets of astounding perfection. — I can think of no finer example of great music and good taste than what you will find ... more »
Mozart's 'Haydn' String Quartets in Highly Nuanced Performan
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 07/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These performances of Mozart's 'Haydn' String Quartets are by a Salzburg-born and -bred quartet, the Hagen Quartet, filmed in the Grosser Saal of the fabled Mozarteum. The setting, with its gilt and cream decor, looks almost like a chocolate box (or perhaps I should says a Mozartkugel box!). The appreciative audience is dressed to the nines. It's all part of the Mozartwoche Festival of 1998. The focus is, as it should be, on the music and the musicians, the highly talented and much praised Hagen Quartet, a group consisting of three siblings - Lukas, Veronika and Clemens Hagen, 1st violin, viola and cello respectively - and their Mozarteum-trained 2nd violinist, Rainer Schmidt. (The quartet started out with four Hagen sibs, but its original second violinist, Angelika Hagen, left the group in the late 1980s.) The booklet indicates the recording was made in one day, 26 January 1998, but I detect differences in the audience for the first three quartets and the last three, so I suspect there were two concerts, perhaps one in the afternoon and another in the evening. At any rate, the performance of all six of the Haydn Quartets on two DVDs is quite a treat.
The Hagen Quartet is known more often for their performances of more modern music and I had suspected that these might be streamlined, even unidiomatic, performances, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The music-making is subtly done, with a very widely varied tonal range. It is clear that every note and phrase has been carefully considered and one notes nuanced shadings of color, dynamics and rhythm. The group has a really quite amazing sensitivity to the playing of each of its musicians. And, interestingly, the group seems to respond as much to the lead of Schmidt as to that of Lukas Hagen, without there seeming to be an conflict between the two. Schmidt's body movements are more readable than those of Lukas, the latter playing with great subtlety but with minimal swaying, eye contact or bodily emphasis; perhaps the Hagen siblings have a family ESP.
Some notes I made as I listened and watched: In K387, the first of the six, the fugal beginning of the finale is quiet, almost strangely so, but this lends extra emphasis and great meaning to the following animated section. The false ending of the movement is done with such cleverness that one really is surprised when it turns out not to be the movement's conclusion. Bravo. The peasant tone of the minuet of K428, with its imitation of a musette drone, is infectious, much more so than in the CD of the Talich Quartet with which I compared these performances. 'Infectious' is also the word to describe the opening of the 'Hunt' Quartet, K458, and I can't say enough in praise of Lukas's ethereal downward melody, played against the throbbing triads of the lower three strings, in the second section of the K458's Andante cantabile third movement; I experienced a shiver of delight each time I heard it. Although not nearly as well known as its neighboring quartets (the 'Hunt' and the 'Dissonance'), the long A major quartet, K464, is given, by a small margin, the best performance of the three latter 'Haydns'. Every note is perfectly in place and especially so in the extraordinary Andante theme-and-variations with its foreshadowing of late Beethoven (and, not surprisingly, of the theme-and-variations of Mozart's later K563 E-flat Divertimento for string trio). Finally we come to perhaps the best-known of this set, the 'Dissonant' Quartet, K465. This is the least successful of the lot, although by this I don't mean this is anything but a good performance; it's just that it seems curiously delicate or fragile. Perhaps this the Hagens' response to the quartet's diffident opening whose initial inability to establish a home key led to the whole quartet being named 'Dissonant'. Still, this is a valid approach. I just happen to prefer both the Talich's and the American String Quartet's recordings. There is an encore consisting of the replaying of K387's spirited finale.
I had not heard or listened to much by the Hagens before except for modern music (Bartók, Ligeti) and was quite surprised and pleased by what I hear on this set of two DVDs. I can recommend it without hesitation.
Filming and sound are unexceptionably good.
Running time: DVD1:95mins, DVD2:109mins; Format: NTSC 16/9 anamorphic; Sound: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Paul S. Rottenberg | Ft. Lauderdale, FL | 04/06/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Someone must have left the stage door open during these performances of Mozart's great and famous string quartets which he dedicated to his good friend Haydn, played by the usually excellent Hagen Quartet, because it feels like Winter in the hall. Every note is exactly in the right place at just the right tempo, but something is missing. It's as if all the notes are there, but the music is missing. (Didn't Mahler say that about someone's music?) These are just about the chilliest performances of anything I've heard in a long time. The Hagens are certainly a very good quartet, but they need something here which you need in baseball if you really want to win:HEART. Ya gotta have it (as the team in DAMN YANKEES sings); otherwise, it doesn't work.
If you really want to hear these essential works in really great performances, get the cds of the Quartetto Italiano (Phillips), or The Alban Berg Quartet (EMI), or The Amadeus Quartet (DG), or The Emerson Quartet (DG), or, if you demand a DVD, get the fine EuroArts disc by the Gewandhaus Quartett called "W. A. Mozart: Famous String Quartets." It contains wonderful readings of Quartets Nos. 14, 19 (two from the "Haydn" set), plus No. 21 (the first "Prussian" Quartet), and "Eine Kleine Nachtmusick.""
Robert Baksa | new york state | 07/23/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Hagen Quartet plays like one instrument, but their take on the Mozart quartets dedicated to Haydn is all wrong. They attack these pieces with lots of rough bowing and tempo fluctuations. The cellist, in particular, plays much of the time with a "detache" stroke which produces a very percussive sound. In certain loud sections the notes disappear altogether and all you hear is bows grinding against strings. It is totally devoid of the elegance and refinement that Mozart needs. As a lover of Mozart, a composer and a string player I find this set less and less satisfying with repeated hearings. The playing in the Gewandhaus set is far more congenial but they only include two of the "Haydn" set. Hopefully another quartet will offer a take on these great pieces in the future. In my opinion this set is only a stop gap."