These recordings of Mozart’s String Quartets (some of his final ones) KV 499 and KV 589, made in 1961 at the Sofiensaal in Vienna, have historic significance as the last gasp of a Viennese style of string playing of Mozart which stemmed from before World War II. Otto Strasser (1901–96), Willi Boskovsky (1909–91), his exact contemporary, Emanuel Brabec (1909–98) and Rudolf Streng (1915–88), had all studied with luminaries of the orchestra from the era when Arnold Rosé, Franz Mairecker and Julius Stwertka led the violins, Ernst Moravec the violas and Friedrich Buxbaum the cellos. Strasser studied with Stwertka, Streng with both Moravec and Barylli’s teacher Mairecker and Brabec with Buxbaum. Strasser joined the Philharmonic in 1922, Boskovsky in 1932 and Brabec in 1938. All four played in the old relaxed way in which the tone was carried as if on the breath with easeful portamento and legato, like the singing of a ‘bel canto’ specialist. To hear Brabec’s airborne legato in the Larghetto of KV 589 is to experience a style which can no longer be duplicated.
This issue is part of a survey of the Vienna Philharmonic Quartet’s discography for Decca, now reissued on Eloquence. Both quartets are released internationally on CD for the first time.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
String Quartet, KV 499 ‘Hoffmeister’
String Quartet, KV 589 ‘Prussian’
Vienna Philharmonic Quartet
Recording Producer: Erik Smith
Balance Engineer: James Brown
Recording Location: Sofiensaal, Vienna, Austria, 15 March 1961
‘played with a smooth velvet tone … the recording quality is mellow and inviting. … All four players can produce a singing tone of golden lyrical quality and their technique is astonishing.’ Gramophone