The influence of Beethoven is unmistakable in these works, yet it is Mendelssohn's humane sophistication, urbanity, and sense of well being that make these quartets uniquely his own.
Here is an entirely unaccustomed perspective on Mendelssohn's quartets. These English "period" musicians believe that Romantic music, too, should be played in the original style, with sparing vibrato, distinct articulation, great clarity, and transparency. They even discovered--and use--the bowings and fingerings of Mendelssohn's friend, the violinist Ferdinand David. Since they play extremely well, with a beautiful, full, warm, homogeneous tone, they give the music extraordinary vitality, excitement, and passion as well as a wistful, dreamy inwardness. Their rhythm is alive and flexible, their phrasing echoes human speech, their climaxes are thrilling, and their expression encompasses devout simplicity, songful lyricism, whimsical charm, and turbulent drama. In addition to the famous quartets Op. 12 and 13, the disc includes the Quartet in E-flat Op. Posthumus, written when Mendelssohn was 14. Though naturally less skillfully composed and original than the others, it bears the seeds of future greatness in its pensive, increasingly tragic slow movement; its startling modulations; and its amazing final double fugue. --Edith Eisler