|The Washington Post, February 15, 2012|
Whether it was Haydn, Schubert or Mendelssohn, the Leipzig String Quartet reached some sublime heights in its concert Tuesday at Washington's United Church (Die Vereinigte Kirche). For most of the evening, the players (former principals of Leipzig's celebrated Gewandhaus Orchestra) maintained a tight, guarded unity of purpose in music that demands intense concentration … The Leipzig's powerfully controlled bows, sense of accord and intelligent phrasing missed none of the composer's violently fluctuating temperament, bringing sudden jolts — in tempos, textures, key and mood — coursing through each movement. But it was the quartet's gripping account of the Schubert that was the most engrossing. The Leipzig precisely pinned down the foreboding undercurrents in the opening movement, defined by an accompanying motif suggesting the kinetic image of a water mill prominent in many of the composer's songs … After an intermission, the players whirled through the Mendelssohn with the composer's signature brio and sweetness, giving full voice to the music's orchestral scope.
Cecelia Porter (Link)
|Manchester Evening News, November 16, 2011|
Beethoven is their speciality, but they're obviously not narrow in their sympathies. They began with Schumann's A major quartet, a warmly Romantic work, and conjured a world of fantasy from the very first, as the opening chord seemed to emerge into view from another dimension. Their playing of the rich melodies that follow was sure and sweet, and there was powerful demonstration of growing tensions and magical relaxations in the remaining movements. Wonderfully robust and resonant in the second, they did not hit quite that level in the finale, though their playing never lacked in character. Beethoven's op. 130 – which includes the last piece he ever completed – was a worthy ending, and beautifully played. The Andante movement shone with grace, poise and expression, and the 'German dance' bounced along delightfully. In all it was an integrated interpretation in which each member knew the others' minds about the details and all were sure of where they were collectively going: a rich experience.
The Leipzig String Quartet, an ensemble drawn from the ranks of the venerable Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, has recorded music from Mozart to the 20th century for Germany's audiophile MDG label. It took a while to get around to Haydn's quartets, cornerstones of the string quartet repertory, but it has finally done so with predictably expert results in this set of three quartets from Haydn's late and brilliantly economical Op. 76 set. The Leipzigers use period instruments and bows, but they don't generate a strikingly unconventional sound with them; unusually clear articulation in passagework and in the pair of variation sets here is the most noticeable effect. The performances are defined not by the instruments but by a light touch, detail, and overall elegance that run from start to finish. Sample the beautifully sculpted layers of sound in the Minuet of the String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76/2, which is made to sound almost like a piece of minimalism but still retains the characteristic Haydn humor. And as is often true with MDG the sound is a chief attraction. The quartets were recorded in the Ehemaliges Ackerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster, a former monastery farmhouse that, unlikely as it might seem, provides an exceptional ambience for Classical-era chamber music. There are plenty of other choices for these quartets, but for the combination of brisk, graceful, accurate playing, historical instruments, and superb acoustics there aren't so many.
James Manheim (Link)
|La Scena Musicale, August 1, 2011|
The Leipzig String Quartet and Menahem Pressler Tackle Mendelssohn and Beethoven's Last String Quartets and More
L.H. Tiffany Hsieh (Link)
|The Boston Musical Intelligencer, July 25, 2011|
Memorable Leipzig Quartet Debut at Maverick
Leslie Gerber (Link)
|Politiken, July 9, 2011|
Mendelssohn's last quartet was given with the melancholic and surgeon sharp angular view of the romantic world's constant striving towards the distant and the innermost at the same time. A kind of decline dozed with small strong drings of elegang liquid lunacy. Shostakovich's 8th is known as 20 minutes' sound side of the man's dismal reality, and it was only in lightening short moments where Leipzig let the light in. The remainder was melancholy dark lines in slow motion, aggressive manifestations, too fast folk melodies and noisy bowings. The music did probably come in through one's ears, but it felt like stabs in the stomach.
The four musicians' mutual understanding lay the ground for a truly impressive sound picture where none of the usual dangers of the genre were heard.
Leipzig would have flopped if they had used the same tactic for Schubert's dreaming web. As a matter of course they stowed the attacks and introduced the composer's ambiguous sounds to the dry brick room gently and restrained. Schubert's four movements is not something one quite grasps in the perfect play between major, and minor, pulse and lull.The menuet reminded of a walz but with a strange resignating feeling, as the last round on the dance floor when the party is over and the guests have gone.
|The New York Times, February 4, 2010|
"Mr. Haydn, if You Please, Come Meet Mr. Ellington"
by Steve Smith (Link)
|The Vancouver Sun, August 5, 2009|
"Leipzig Quartet shines in return engagement "
by David Gordon Duke (Link)
|The New York Times, March 13, 2009|
"Beethoven Studied Through Varied Lenses "
by Allan Kozinn (Link)
|dcist.com , March 13, 2009|
"A Zen Evening at the Freer"
by Charles T. Downey (Link)
|ionarts.blogspot.com, March 12, 2009|
"Leipzig Quartet's Zen Moment"
by Charles T. Downey (Link)
|The Washington Post, March 12, 2009|
"Sounds of Silence at the Freer"
by Joan Reinthaler (Link)
|Vancouver Sun, August 11, 2008|
Festival Vancouver's big event on Saturday was an appearance by the great Leipzig String Quartet, made up of principal players from the Gewandhaus Orchestra, one of Europe's finest. The atmosphere in the Chan was more worshipful than festive, a reminder, should we need it, that chamber music is serious. But then this quartet is seriously deluxe, revered all over the world, and the members aren't old. They have 60 recordings out, from Mozart to the moderns. Critics prostrate themselves at their feet. They are echt-deutsch in the matter of discipline and it felt reassuringly safe to sit back and not expect things to go amiss. And nothing did. Intonation? It was almost flawless. Phrasing agreements? To a hair. Even the players' vibratos matched up with more than ordinary consistency. But they didn't sound like they were playing a single instrument, in that reviewer's cliche which is meant as a compliment but is really an insult. Each instrument came through with its own special qualities, loud and clear. Over-rehearsed? Not that one noticed. They played a strangely conservative program. The third so-called Razumovsky quartet by Beethoven of opus 59, is more straightforward than several of his other middle-period quartets and marginally less interesting. Mendelssohn's A minor quartet is largely derivative of Beethoven. The Three Pieces by Stravinsky is minor Stravinsky, if still fascinating. Still, the Leipzigers could have played anything and made it sound wonderful. They made the Beethoven seem like fresh-breaking news, that sudden cello forte pizzicato coming like a wake-up call in passages that many quartets down-play when Beethoven presumably had something in mind. They played the finale as fast as it's possible to go and it still came off perfectly. A 22-year-old prodigy called Felix Mendelssohn was pleased when someone told him that what they were hearing in Paris in 1832 must be by Beethoven. And Mendelssohn, who wrote it at 18, would have been doubly pleased by the Leipzig Quartet's performance of this song-without-words-like performance of a lovely quartet.
Lloyd Dykk (Link)
|The Ottawa Citizen, August 08, 2008|
Leipzig Quartet seriously good
The Leipzig String Quartet has a reputation for taking whatever it plays very seriously. Seriously beyond the strict necessities of technical and musical excellence. Occasionally this can be a problem, but more often it has its rewards. For example, Beethoven's Quartet in F minor, op. 95 is nicknamed the Serioso. As the Leipzigers play it, it could readily be called the Molto serioso. But what a glorious reading theirs was last night at St. John's. It was grand to the point of being monumental, yet vital and dramatically urgent, at times to the point of almost overwhelming the listener. And at the same time, it was a model of logic and proportion. Dramatic urgency isn't a quality that we necessarily associate with Mendelssohn, whose string quartets are more popular with musicians than with the public. But that would change if they were routinely performed as the Quartet in A minor was last night. There was a cutting-edge thrill to the first movement that we almost never hear. The grave lyricism of the second movement was only one of the merits of an exceptionally thoughtful and well-centered concept of the score. The Intermezzo was consummately elegant with just a hint of sadness, and the finale, like the opening movement was fiery and compelling. In all of the piano-and-strings repertoire, no work is more wonderful than the Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G minor. For last night's performance, Ottawa pianist Stéphane Lemelin joined the Leipzig Quartet in an account of the great work as close to perfect as you're ever likely to hear. Some performances of this Quintet, taking their cues from some elements of the third and fifth movements, are attempts at a light-hearted romp.
Richard Todd (Link)
|ionarts.blogspot.com, December 19, 2007|
|KulturSPIEGEL April 2007|
Sovereign in Rarefied Air
The Leipzig String Quartet has completed its Beethoven quartet cycle, and with it set new standards. String quartets can be likened to rock climbing: No place else is the competition so great, no where else has the drive to push oneself to the physically possible, and possibly past it, called forth such breathtaking artistry as on the seemingly staunch four string instruments. Already since 1988 have Andreas Seidel, Tilman Büning, Ivo Bauer, and Matthias Moosdorf been moving in this rarified air without getting dizzy. But only after a decade of performing as a successful ensemble did the gentlemen of the Leipzig String Quartet – three were section leaders in the Gewandhaus Orchestra – brought out on CD the pinnacle of all pinnacles: Beethoven. And even then they left themselves time. Only now with the six movements of the mammoth Op. 130 and the mighty "Große Fuge" of Op. 133 that originally was designed as its Finale, have they reached the last stage. And it was worth the effort: in contrast to the two-decade-old reference recording by the Melos Quartet, the Leipzig Quartet always succeeds in producing the unbelievable. Still cleaner intonation, still more precise entrances, even more transparent lines give such glowingly pure, emotion-laden sound that Beethoven’s roughness, his massive tone and abysses become an existential necessity. The path into loneliness which the composer traverses from the pleasant Haydn melodies via the radical outbreaks of the Rasumovsky quartets Op. 59 to the rugged, reflective latter works – is clearer here and can be anticipated from the beginning. It is thus a paradox that the Leipzig have lately concerned themselves with the catchword of musical rhetoric- their playing, supported by a congenial recording technique, transcends all showy effects. For Beethoven’s forward-looking individuality it is, as we hear here, precisely the right thing.
(translation by Erica Shupp)
|Penguin Guide 2005/2006|
|About Mozart's String Quartets on MDG 307 0936-2:|
|The Leipzig performances of Mozart's last three quartets are second to none and have all the spontaneity of live music-making …|
|About Schoenberg's String Quartets on MDG 307 0919-2 and MDG 307 0935-2:|
|They phrase with great naturalness, their ensemble is perfect and they have great warmth, richness and tonal beauty, though nothing is overstated or projected. If any ensemble could win doubting listeners over this (Schoenberg) repertoire, this is it.|
|About Brahm's Clarinet Quintet and SQ in a minor on MDG 307 0719-2:|
|Karl Leister's performance with the Leipzig Quartet is second to none. The quartet and its distinguoshed soloist produce impressive results in what is surely Brahms's most serene utterance and the A minor Quartet also receives an auhoritative and musical performance.|
|Fanfare, March/April 2006|
|On this 2005 release (of String Quartets by Ravel, Tailleferre and Milhaud), we have a seductive account of the Ravel by the Leipzig String Quartet, coupled with fascinating, little-heard works by Tailleferre and Milhaud ... this is one of the most beautiful accounts of the Ravel in my experience. It’s warmly expressive, intensely phrased, and the recorded sound is full and rich. The individual movement timings are well within the interpretive norm, and intonation is secure throughout. Anton Seidel’s sensitive playing on first violin deserves special praise. To my ears, he’s superior to Alphonse Onnou in the 1933 composer-supervised recording by the Pro Arte Quartet ... this is one of the finest recordings currently available ...|
|The Leipzig Quartet acknowledge the scope of Bruckner's music with a big-boned, firm-bowed sound, providing even the semiquavers a sense of breadth, and infusing the moving parts in the chorales (as at the Adagio's opening) with full tonal weight. They unterstand the music's proportions, eliciting expression from details, but never to the detriment of the music's long, arching structures. Their intonation is consistgently impeccable: the most tortous harmonic side-steps are placed precisely, while simple passages in thirds sing vibrantly. And, while the players know how to project the music's lyric grandeur, they don't neglect the relaxed, rustic charm of its Austrian folk elements.|
|...impassioned and superbly Brahms Quintet (op. 34) ... you'll marvel at the fusion of power and clarity pianist Andreas Staier and the Leipzig Quartet achieve ... This powerful, profound performance deserves serious consideration.|
|The Strad, May 2005:|
|Bruckners subtle chamber works need aproaching with the gravitas a conductor might bring to the seventh or eighth symphonies. The outstanding Leipzig Quartet has just these mature qualities. No self-indulgently melliflous accounts, these are charged, atmospheric and impressive, with all four players sharing the same profoundly intelligent approach to structure and texture. The challengingAdagio ... is admirably surmounted.|
|Fanfare, May-June 2005:|
|The performance (of Brahms' Sextet op. 36) here is flawless - perfectly paced, beautifully shaped, smoothly and warmly played, and, as always, well-balanced.|
|BBC Music Magazine, May 2005:|
|There's a highly expressive German word, Schwung, that signifies a combination of vigour, momentum and swing. That's the quality above all that the Leipzig Quartet brings to Brahms. On the whole the Leipzigers don't drive the music too hard, but there's a motoring energy to the first movements of both Brahms works. And when the Sextet's (op. 36) second theme comes soaring in for the first time the effect is rather like hang-gliding from the top of a mountain. The dark urgency of the Quartet's (0p. 51/1) first movement is just as impressive, and the whole performance has deep seriousness, as well as superb polished precision, that holds the attention right to the end.|
|The Washington Post, March 2002:|
|The Leipzig Quartet gave a superbly integrated concert Sunday evening at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center -integrated both in the selection of material and in the style of performance. The group, made up of former members of the great Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, plays with precise ensemble sound and restrained emotional power. In dynamic range and rhythmic definition, the Leipzig Quartet seems slightly understated compared with some American string quartets. But this sense of restraint gives its performances added depth. The Leipzig Quartet played with technical ease, fine coordination and a clear sense of the three compositions' interrelationships.|
|The New York Times, August 2002:|
|The Quartet presented rich, mellow, unadulterated beauty. They have an urmanity and a sense of elegance, as if their performance were bounded by an invisible gold frame... There was a refreshing kind of emotonial understatement: brilliance and feeling were abundantly present but did not need to be worn on the sleeve.|
|Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2002:|
Burnished Sounds From Leipzig Quartet
Judging from its first appearance on the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College’s series at the Doheny Mansion on Friday night, the Leipzig String Quartet is well worth getting to know. With a fine collective pedigree–three of the four members were once principals in the superb Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra–this quartet’s blend is defined by the warm, burnished, dark-hardwood-colored inner voices of the second violin and viola. It’s a heavy sound, yet not immobile, for they keep the tempos moving briskly and they execute immaculately.
The dark Leipzig timbre was well-suited for (Mendelssohn's) music, and the quartet could dig deeply into its most virulent passages without flying out of control.
Richard S. Ginell (Link)
|The New York Times, November 1999:|
|The players, mostly former members of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, formed the Quartet in 1988, and have forged an admiravle unity of thought and utterance... This is a fine group, no question, showing little of the machine-tooled gloss that can creep into the playing of even the finest American quartets...|