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Music Review: The Juilliard String Quartet – Mozart: The Last String Quartets

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How many music groups can match the personnel turnover rate of the Juilliard String Quartet.  Founded in 1946, this amazing group’s current lineup has had only fifteen different members.  Many similar organizations failed to continue when changes in membership set in.  The founding members were together until 1955 and the group only had two changes in the first twenty years.

In spite of personnel changes, the JSQ has been the recipient of four Grammys, all for “Best Chamber Music Performance”, in 1966, 1972, 1978, and 1985.  This release contains sixteen tracks (two discs) and a digital booklet. Mozart: The Last String Quartets is also one of four releases that have not been available since the LP era — oh for the days of vinyl and a Garrard turntable.

Mozart: The Last String Quartets album was recorded at Columbia studios in New York City in November of 1974.  At that time, Robert Mann (first violin) was the only founding member still with the group. Earl Carlyss was sitting at second violin, Samuel Rhodes on viola, and Joel Krosnick played violoncello.  This project consists of four pieces written between 1786 and 1790 in Vienna.  Quartets numbered 21,22, and 23 were written with the hope of a dedication to King William of Prussia. Since the king was a cellist, Mozart favored that instrument in what many critics feel were his best four pieces for string quartet.

Of the four, No. 23 in F Major, K 590 is my personal favorite.  As mentioned above, it features the cello and Krosnick does it proud.  Near the five minute mark, the violin and cello seem to be having a conversation as each offers replies.  Other “conversations” ensue prior to the violin closing the piece just before nine minutes has elapsed.   Along with the top notch production values, the precision and care with which the artists perform these classic pieces is awe-inspiring.  I may have to add this album to my Saturday play list.

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  • Reese McKay

    The fact that you write intelligent reviews on so many different music genres amazes me. It is one of your most likable tendencies, this love of so many different kinds of music. I love it. Mozart’s quartets, like nearly everything he wrote, are such incredibly intricate and yet simple masterpieces. Mozart’s music has a mathematical beauty and aesthetic quality that has rarely been matched.

  • Thanks, I appreciate that.
    No doubt you’re familiar with the “Mozart Effect“? There is a website dedicated to it now.

  • Reese McKay

    Yes I am. Have you run across the controversy about that? Some researchers have done a study that claims to debunk the Mozart Effect. It would be hard to prove that it is real any way. However, as they say in Yiddish “It couldn’t huait.”