Windermere String Quartet’s Latest on Period Instruments reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Windemere String Quartet (on period instruments): The Golden Age of String Quartets. Pipistrelle Music, 2012.

I listened to this very focused disc with increasing interest.  Persuasive care went into the Windermere’s choice and preparation of classical period quartets they accord “historically informed performance on period instruments.” Haydn’s E-flat Op. 33 No. 2 (The Joke), written as he was freeing himself from noble bondage to the Esterhazy, is a step forward into contrapuntal complexity and subtle instrumental relationships that are much enhanced by period instruments. Mozart’s K465 “Dissonance,” was for him also ground-breaking, blending Bachian counterpoint with dialogues we find later in The Marriage of Figaro. The Beethoven C Minor Op.18, No. 4 shows a comic disregard of formalities, particularly in the backtalk that goes on among all four instruments. Period instrument construction, which favours staccato over legato playing makes the individual voices stand out, as opposed to the modern instrument ensembles that produce a burnished, harmonic blending. So, if you incline towards the gritty, whiney, grainy, breathy, bagpipe-ish sound of gut strings, you will surely recognize the distinctive contribution each player makes to the lively conversations recorded here. The Windermere’s approach has an attractive, earthy honesty most suited to the Haydn: the Mozart and Beethoven, to my mind, enjoy the brilliance provided by modern strings. Well engineered and recorded, this disc will reward repeated listening. The Windermere String Quartet is: Rona Goldensher, violin: Elizabeth Loewen Andrews, violin :Anthony Rapoport, viola: Laura Jones, cello.

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