Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Joseph Haydn Opus 50 and the Quatuor Zaïde

By this stage in my life, I am always interested to read other people's views on the performance of a piece of music, but I have learned not to be too swayed by either enthusiastic or negative critiques. Critics differ, and criticism is usually mainly a subjective matter. I made an exception for a review in the Gramophone magazine of a new recording by an unknown (to me) string quartet of four young French women playing the six quartets of Haydn's Opus 50. The critic compared this recording – by the Quatuor Zaïde – with a new release of the same works by a British quartet. The British players were judged to be admirable, playing with taste and refinement; the French players were judged to have plunged into this somewhat revolutionary music and to have displayed enthusiasm and a sense of exhilaration. I bought the French CD, because I value enthusiasm and am somewhat wary of just good taste.

The music really is pretty extraordinary for 1787; the quality of the six quartets in very high. They make for happy listening, each quartet lasting for around 20 minutes for the four movements; just under two hours for the six. And, yes, I have taken to the zest with which the Zaïde launch into this music; young people can often bring a welcome enthusiasm to a musical performance, an enthusiasm that can escape older groups playing a piece for the 200th time. I'll keep this CD close to hand – for the music, as well as for the performances.

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