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Giv_Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, December 2006

While he was in Paris in 1784, Mozart saw a newly-published set of string quartets by Pleyel, and was impressed enough by them to write to his father Leopold that they were as good as any he had seen, and worthy of being 'up there' with Haydn's. High praise indeed, and well deserved - although not in the same class as Mozart's own. Pleyel's writing is highly melodic, at times employing simplistic phrasing, but always enjoyable. The Enso Quartet members play with infectious enthusiasm, with excellent acoustics adding to the enjoyment of listening to this easily accessible music.

The Strad, March 2006

These performances of the first three of Pleyel’s op.2, published in 1784 with a dedication to his mentor Joseph Haydn, represent an auspicious start to the Enso Quartet’s recording career. There is a freshness and incisiveness about them that suggests a group of young players discovering the music for themselves, their reactions uncluttered by weight of experience, and yet they demonstrate a natural feeling for Pleyel’s lyricism, style, and expression, as well as an unobtrusive sophistication. First violinist Maureen Nelson is predominant throughout, nimble and technically assured in developmental passagework, notably in the energetic Allegro assai of no.3, yet consistently intelligent and musical in shaping the melodic line, as in the muted Adagio of no.2. Her collegues accompany sympathetically and, when appropriate, skillfully blend in their contributions to the melodic and harmonic interest with unanimity of ensemble and musical purpose. Dramatic moments are characterized by incisive attack that avoids aggression, as in the first movement of no.1 or some episodes of the rondo finale of no.2. The minuet finales of no.1 and 3 are played with all the necessary stately grace; but there is no lack of gravitas when required, as in the Adagio opening movement of no.3. The recorded sound is bright, carefully balanced and closely focused in a resonant church acoustic. Mozart wrote to his father in 1784 that Pleyel’s quartet’s ‘are very well written and most pleasing to listen to’. Who am I to disagree?

David Hurwitz, January 2006

Naxos is, in truth, doing music lovers a real favor in making so much music of the Classical period available on disc, and not just because the label is rescuing many fine works that collectors will enjoy. . . . the Enso Quartet plays with great confidence and verve, not to mention excellent rhythm and admirably accurate intonation. This is good music, and in these performances the players have you believing in its quality at every point. Their powerful attack on the highly "Sturm und Drang" G minor quartet is particularly impressive. It's perhaps the most interesting work in the set, with a curious "Grazioso" finale that remains in the minor right up to the end. The sonics are also quite warm and very present. The remaining three quartets in Op. 2 also will be recorded by these players for Naxos, and I look forward to hearing them. Strongly recommended.

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