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Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets / Emerson String Quartet [Box set, Enhanced]

Felix Mendelssohn , Emerson String Quartet Audio CD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Price: $42.74 & FREE Shipping. Details
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“Technically speaking the Emerson String Quartet are unimpeachable, with meticulous internal balance and intonation sustained at all times, remarkable tonal matching between the instruments and precision phrasing and dynamics. There is a beguiling transparency about their sound-world that allows every voice to register with the ... Read more in Amazon's Emerson String Quartet Store

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Frequently Bought Together

Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets / Emerson String Quartet + Schubert: The Late String Quartets + Bach: Art of Fugue for String Quartet
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Product Details

  • Performer: Felix Mendelssohn, Emerson String Quartet
  • Audio CD (January 11, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set, Enhanced
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B0006TN9G2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,212 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
2. II. Adagio Non Lento
3. III. Intermezzo: Allegretto Con Moto
4. IV. Presto
5. A Tempo Ordinario
See all 9 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. I. Allegro Assai Appassionato
2. II. Scherzo: Allegro Di Molto
3. III. Andante
4. IV. Presto Agitato
5. I. Allegro Vivace
See all 8 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. I. Molto Allegro Vivace
2. II. Menuetto: Un Poco Allegretto
3. III. Andante Espressivo Ma Con Moto
4. IV. Presto Con Brio
5. Andante con Moto - Allegro Fugato, Assai Vivace
See all 11 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. I. Allegro Moderato, Ma Con Fuoco
2. II. Andante
3. III. Scherzo: Allegro Leggierissimo
4. IV. Presto
5. I. Allegro Moderato
See all 8 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Trust the Emerson Quartet to do nothing by halves. This 4-CD set presents all of Mendelssohn's quartets, including one written at 14, the five pieces Op. 81, as well as the Octet. This set should disprove the assertion that Mendelssohn, a sensational prodigy, blossomed young and never developed further. The difference in compositional skill and emotional depth between the early and late quartets is unmistakable; the miracle is that he could write the Octet at 16. The quartets are of uneven quality: Op. 44 No. 3 is distinctly inferior to the more-familiar Nos. 1 and 2; of the two Fugues Op. 81, the later one is far better. The quartets Op. 12 and 13 (written in reverse order) pay homage to Beethoven in Mendelssohn's very own romantic voice. Op. 80 is masterful although perhaps less disciplined: written just after his beloved sister Fanny's death and shortly before his own, it is a turbulent, heart-rending outcry of anguish. Some of the most-magical moments occur in the inimitable Scherzi and Intermezzi. The performances are vintage Emerson: impeccable individually and together, beautiful in sound, clear, carefully worked out. Although generally a little cool, they can rise to considerable warmth and passion. Not surprisingly, the best pieces elicit the most involved, exciting playing. As always, the violinists switch parts, but the whole group also alternates old Italian and modern American instruments, for the players have a surprise in store: they give the Octet a new twist by "doubling" on all eight parts through a complicated process of over-dubbing (a documentary video of the recording process is included). Here, using the different instruments is intended to combine the old and the new and to give the voices more-distinct timbres. However, the differences throughout are imperceptible. The idea of playing the Octet with themselves, so to speak, is intriguing, but the result is disappointing. Hearing four rather than eight individual voices is disconcerting, and worse, the balance is completely awry, especially in the corner movements. The busy tremolo accompaniment makes the middle register thick and heavy, the tone gets rough, important lines are obscured, and the Quartet's customary admirable textural transparency is lost. And even a cellist as splendid as David Finckel cannot save the opening of the Fugue from sounding like a growl. This may be a triumph of recording technology, but it adds nothing to the music or the performance. --Edith Eisler

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Performances September 9, 2005
Format:Audio CD
Mendelssohn's string quartets are very appealing, tuneful works that engage the listener completely. Chamber music was an important part of Mendelssohn's output and one does not gain a full picture of his growth as a composer by only being familiar with his orchestral works. This 4-CD set by the Emerson String Quartet brilliantly explores not only the six numbered quartets but includes the shorter Op. 81 works (published after Mendelssohn's death), the student quartet (written when the composer was 14) and the stunning Octet for strings.

Naturally, the early quartets (written in 1827 and 1829 but published in reverse order in 1830) reflect the influence of other composers, most notably Beethoven. The movements of these quartets were linked by thematic ideas. The quartet in A minor uses Mendelssohn's song Frage (Question) as the musical link. The quartet in E-Flat (Op. 12) was composed during Mendelssohn's trip to the British Isles, which also inspired his Scottish Symphony and Hebrides Overture.

When Mendelssohn next turned to the form he was the director of the Gewandhaus and a famous composer. The composition of the three quartets Op. 44 (number 3, 4 and 5) occurred after his marriage to Cecile Jeanrenaud in 1837 and were composed during his two month long honeymoon. These quartets reflect the composer's maturity and accessible style. The sixth quartet was published after Mendelssohn's death and was written following the sudden death of his sister Fanny in May 1847. It follows that the quartet is darker than the others and is agitated and dissonant in tone; the first movement begins with dark tones from the cello then proceeds with a beautiful melody punctuated with tremolos. The scherzo is characterized by an unusual tempo that has a frantic quality to it.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LIKE WATER FROM A PUBLIC FOUNTAIN May 11, 2005
Format:Audio CD
That was Wagner's dismissive description of the music of Mendelssohn. In the later 19th century there was a critical reaction against both of the great Germans who had dominated English music for a century and a half overall, Handel and Mendelssohn. As is usual with such debunking, much of it was trivial and petulant. However Handel has recovered strongly over the last 50 years and by now is probably almost as familiar as Bach is, whereas Mendelssohn has not. The popular favourites among his compositions have never ceased to be that, but opportunities to hear most of his chamber music and songs are still rare. I am myself in the happy position of having attended two years ago a festival dedicated to those sides of his output, and consequently I know the works on this distinguished set fairly well.

The performers are the Emerson Quartet, and the quality of their work is well known. In every imaginable respect it is superlatively good. Technically these accounts are flawless, and in terms of comprehension of the music and insight into the spirit of the composer I prefer to learn from them rather than to pass otiose comment. There are 7 complete quartets here, plus 5 isolated movements. Being moderately familiar with the music I would advise newcomers that the approach taken throughout is `normal' in the best sense and free from idiosyncrasies - if you are looking for `model' performances of these works this would be where to look. Mendelssohn's tempo markings, unlike those of greater composers such as Beethoven Schubert and Brahms, are almost invariably clear and unambiguous. In the one case where a bit of interpretation is called for, the central two movements of the D major quartet op44/1, I am convinced and delighted by the solution adopted.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully recorded, well-played, but... January 24, 2009
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
I expected more. These performances fall far short of those by the Aurora Quartet and the very different but equally attractive ones by the Henschel Quartet. Before you dismiss the Mendelssohn quartets--especially those numbered 1 through 5--as pleasant but mediocre works, listen to the Auroras and the Henschels. Unlike the Emersons, both the Auroras and the Henschels show that Mendelssohn wrote at least five quartets that rank with those of Brahms and Schubert. In sum, there's much much more to these quartets than the Emersons reveal.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine performances, but not worth the high price. September 14, 2009
Format:Audio CD
This box set was in my local library, so I finally got a chance to hear it. If you want to add the op. 44 quartets to your personal library, I would not recommend this expensive cd set. Compared to other recordings, these performances are understated and a little distant, although technically they are impeccable. I wish that the first movement of the 44-1 quartet was a bit faster. However the last movement of 44-1 is extremely fast. The first movement of 44-2 is beautiful and silky smooth, and the great scherzo of 44-2 is slick and brisk. The last movement of 44-3 is so fast that it sounds more like a scherzo--a testament to the Emerson's apparently limitless technical skills. It's a little weird to hear a recording of the octet that was accomplished with digital trickery, but the performance is fast and clean with extremely good intonation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good - not great! May 1, 2014
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Performances exhibited marvelous technique and superb ensemble by America's paramount string quartet who failed, nevertheless, to fully get inside the music. Not really satisfying musically although the performances of the later quartets were preferable. Go back to the Amadeus and Bartholdi String Quartets for more musically penetrating performances.
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