Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stuyvesnat Quartet: Brahms & Mozart -- Audio Treasures

Stuyvesant Quartet with Alfred Gallodoro, clarinet

The Stuyvesant Quartet was a group of talented musicians who left a remarkable legacy. Founded by by the Shulman brothers, Sylvan (violin) and Alan (cello) in 1938, the quartet consisted of preeminent musicians from broadcast network symphony orchestras. In 1950 they formed their own label -- Philharmonia -- with audio legend Norman Pickering as their recording engineer.

Although Philharmonia was short-lived, the recordings and performances were top-notch, as this current reissue attests. The sound is warm, but detailed. The ensemble is nicely balanced, with a natural-sounding blend. And the performances are very much of their time.

The Brahms Clarinet Quintet with clarinetist Alfred Gallodoro is given a heavily romantic and sometimes sweet, reading. It's a performance that's full of drama, yet there are passages where the ensemble seems to be simply savoring every note.

The Stuyvensant's performances of Mozart's String Quartet in D major, K. 499 and String Quartet in D major, K. 575 are more straight-forward. While there is more vibrato than you'd hear in a modern recording, the ensemble keeps things simple and uncluttered.

This reissue is a window into the past, and a valuable one. No modern quartet would perform these works in the manner of the Stuyvesant. Yet the high degree of musicianship and the emotional charge they give these works makes for compelling listening even today. And the Stuyvesant's interpretations yield insights that can still sound fresh to modern ears.

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