JOSEPH HAYDN - String Quartets, Op. 20

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JOSEPH HAYDN - String Quartets, Op. 20 - Daedalus Quartet - 2 Disc Set - 090404932625 - Bridge 9326

It is sometimes hard to believe that Mozart was only a teenager when, in 1772, Joseph Haydn composed his String Quartets, Op. 20. They seem to be so much more advanced and complex for their time. They were written during his "Sturm und Drang" period, and therefore are varied in mood, switching from bright to dark expressive moments more often than customary back then. They are full of invention, mature harmonic progressions, and a constant use of well planned counterpoint. Many consider them to be some of the finest examples of the genre. It seems that Beethoven even went through the trouble of writing down, note for note, the E-flat major quartet, to further understand its machinations and to learn from it.

The Daedalus Quartet, a young American ensemble who have been together now for about ten years, have so far demonstrated an affinity for 20th century composers such as Carter, Ligeti, Stravinsky, Sierra ...and the recordings they have released of such composers have all been well received, so one would think that in an already Haydn saturated market, there was no need for this new recording. Fortunately for us, the members of the Daedalus Quartet, Min-Young Kim (violin), Kyu-Young Kim (violin), Jessica Thompson (viola) and Raman Ramakrishnan (cello), believe there is still something to discover and decipher within this timeless music. It is obvious that they have approached these quartets with a sense of reverence, but also with the intent to do away with the lace and powdered wig stigma attached to them. Their ensemble playing is spotless, their dynamic shading is peerless, they give each individual voice its own character and expressive freedom while the four combined get along like one happy family.

And again, the recording engineers at Bridge Records have produced a natural recording, warm and with an adequate sense of closeness between the four players, and a good depth perspective. A set definitely worth having in your player.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2010