Mozart The Complete String Quartets Volume 1
No music plays itself - but the balance of creative and recreative roles varies for each composition, and the means by which the balance is struck must agree with the ideal of the music. Mozart, in that light, is crystalline. With Beethoven, by contrast, one strives and the struggle does not harm but rather enhances a music which is muscle and bone; with Haydn, an ever-present wit and unfailing instrumental sense give freedom; a music of belly and brain. But there is no more sensitive litmus for the interpreter than Mozart: between the acid of 'notes only' performance practice where the music is presumed to speak for itself, and the base of personality cult - between these is perfect Mozart ...
"The American Quartet have a sensitivity of phrasing and lightness of articulation which preserves the magical transparency of Mozart’s music, and yet their warmly expressive vibrato and dynamic thrust do not run shy of projecting the humour and humanity of these gems of chamber music making. Not only are the instruments well matched, but the players really do form that sense of unbreakable unity which is essential to this music. There are no weak links, no quirky eccentricities which make any one player stand out – the character of the playing is in the service of the character of the music, and it is this high standard of ‘inhabiting’ the score and playing the music with as much apparent ease as breathing that will bring me back to these recordings on a regular basis. There has been comment that the American Quartet lacks some of the intimacy of some other recordings, but to my mind this is more a side effect of their unity. This genuine singularity of approach and execution means that the impression of musical discourse and conversation is less evident than with, say, the Amadeus Quartet. At this level of subtlety things become very subjective, and in the end one just has to listen and decide for oneself.
If you are looking for a beautifully recorded set of Mozart string quartets played with an almost absolute absence of flaws or intrusive ‘interpretation’ then these recordings by the American Quartet will be right up your street. Having them played on four Stradivari is almost an incidental bonus, but should be an added attraction for collectors...you can rest assured that I shall be first in line for the remaining releases from Nimbus." Dominy Clements, Musicweb-international.com