Chiaroscuro Quartet: Haydn String Quartets Op 76 – magicians at work

Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 05:00


Chiaroscuro Quartet

Haydn String Quartets Op. 76 Nos 4-6



That great 18th-century musical observer Charles Burney responded to Haydn’s Op 76 quartets by describing them as being “full of invention, fire, good taste and new effects”. The historically informed playing of the Chiaroscuro Quartet led by Alina Ibragimova is so lithe that it’s tempting to reach for metaphors about athleticism. But the group’s performances show not so much a musical parallel to the physical effort and control of the world of sport, but rather to the altogether less graspable but equally gasp-inducing manipulations of the close-up magician.

Of course, it’s not that the Chiaroscuro are deceiving anyone into believing in the impossible. It’s just that they manage to generate musical and technical outcomes that in most other hands simply are impossible. They achieve a well-nigh perfect balancing of parts and show an often-effortless lightness as well as a thoughtful spontaneity that captures Haydn’s invigoratingly inventive writing with striking immediacy.

String Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 76 No. 4, Hob. III:78 "Sunrise": I. Allegro con spirito

A Swedish diplomat for whom Haydn played the works on the piano remarked on the music being “masterly, and full of new ideas”. So, too, are these performances. This is the kind of recording to make you fall in love with these great works all over again.