Donizetti: String Quartets 1-3

Pleyel Quartett Köln
55:19
cpo 777 909-2

Donizetti might not be the first name you would come up with if asked to name a composer of string quartets. The truth, however, is that these are three accomplished pieces, requiring virtuosity from three of the four players (the poor violist is pretty much a filler-in…), and all in the same four-movement pattern (fast – slow – playful – fast). The young Donizetti had regularly played Mozart and Haydn quartets with his teacher of the time, the opera composer Johann Simon Mayr. Klaus Aringer’s informative note seems to cover the whole of Donizetti’s quartet output, and together with other volumes featuring The Revolutionary Drawing Room, cpo has built up an excellent period instrument monument to Italian chamber music, of which we hear precious little. The Pleyel Quartett Köln (here playing late 18th-or early 19th-century instruments or have strayed from the eponymous composer’s Prussian Quartets to music by Wolf and Gyrowetz for their most recent recordings, and very fine all of those have been. This CD adds another feather to their cap with fine playing from all concerned. The violinists take turns playing the Violin 1 part. I can heartily recommend this recording to all fans of the string quartet.

Brian Clark