Bernhard Molique: String Quartets Opp. 42 & 44
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This album features Bernhard Molique's String Quartetts, Op.. 42 and 44. Both works were composed while Molique was in England and he considered them to be situated between classicism and romanticism. Molique was interested not in showy effects but in substance - a fact reflected in the unchanging movement tiles of his quartets.
Top customer reviews
• Molique was a conservative who considered Schumann too modern. His comfort zone is Beethoven, Spohr, and Mendelssohn.
• An underwhelming volume in this series containing Molique's weakest quartets. Disc is only 48 minutes.
• Although not at the level of Onslow,Burgmüller, or Czerny, Molique's quartets are always pleasant. I recommend Vol. 3 and Vol. 2.
• String Quartet No. 7 in B-flat major op. 42 (1851) is sunny, buoyant, and Mendelssohnian with two compelling movements, namely the "Menuetto"—by turns melancholy and vivacious—and the lovely "Andante" in the manner of a serenade.
• String Quartet No. 8 in A minor op. 44 (1852) is Molique's last and shortest quartet (19 minutes). Despite its minor key, this work is very light and frothy with an elfin scherzo depicting dancing sprites, followed by a cheerful rondo full of vigorous scales and flourishes.
• Fine performances by Mannheim String Quartet, but they omit exposition repeats, which wasn't the case in prior volumes.
• Recorded sound is excellent.
A student of Spohr and a preeminent violinist in his day, Bernhard Molique (1802-1869) is now little more than a footnote. If he ever carried any fame, it was for his violin concertos. Molique may have been active in the mid-19th century, but he approached Romanticism timidly and instead cultivated an anachronistic style that Schubert might have found tame. His eight string quartets are never far away from classicism, even if they reveal a stylistic evolution from early Beethoven to Mendelssohn. It is a neat trick that Molique published string quartets matching the opus numbers of Beethoven's (op. 18) and Mendelssohn's (op. 44). In any event, Molique keeps a tight rein on his emotions and eschews the expressive gestures and grit of Beethoven. Even the liner notes paints a portrait of a composer constantly blushing in his music, as if he's too demure to abide chromaticism, intensity, or unrestrained passion.
Whereas Molique's earliest quartets were more indebted to Beethoven, his String Quartet No. 7 in B-flat major op. 42 (1851) is thoroughly Mendelssohnian, starting with the genial and elated "Allegro vivace," notable for its strong first theme and a spirited development. As a whole, it isn't a very distinctive movement and lacks sufficiently contrasting material. Molique has written better sonata-allegros. The ensuing "Menuetto," a Mendelssohn scherzo, is more buoyant and attractive with vivacious patter. The "Andante" is a beautiful serenade with expressive contours intoned by all the strings in a tranquil atmosphere. Finally, the quartet ends with an exuberant "Rondo" enlivened by playful scales and figures.
String Quartet No. 8 in A minor op. 44 (1852) is not only Molique's last quartet, but his shortest at 19:38. No doubt it was the composer's intention to share the same opus number with Mendelssohn's set. Not much stands out in the elegant "Allegro" except for moments of emphatic vigor and motivic craft. For the first time Molique changes up his formula, substituting an "Intermezzo" for a minuet. This is quintessential elfin Mendelssohn with galloping rhythms and delicate repeated notes, conjuring an image of sprites darting around. A 3-minute tender "Adagio" with gentle strumming pizzicato transitions seamlessly into the finale. This jocular "Rondo" with abundant scalar passagework is in a bright major key, which makes the quartet's tonic key of A minor rather nominal.
The Mannheim String Quartet is at home with Molique's idiom. They treat these lightweight quartets with warmth, generating a satisfying blend, clarity of texture, and clean execution. However, Mannheim disappoints by not taking the repeats this time. Recorded sound meets CPO's high standards.