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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | An Hour Of Harp Music With String Quartet? Surprisingly Yes

By Norman Lebrecht on March 16, 2018

Mozart: Concertos (Indé Sens)
Mozart: Concertos (Indé Sens)

★★★★ (out of five)

The only thing that saved this release from being flung unopened into the bin was the quartet’s name and the fact that this is the first fruit of a new label. The Varian Fry Quartet, made up of young Berlin Philharmonic players, is named after an American who saved the lives of at least 2,000 Nazi refugees in the south of France, a largely unsung hero. The label is a bold French venture.

But an hour of harp music with string quartet? Come on; there will be plenty of time for that in the afterlife. So why listen? Because Mozart made these transcriptions himself — two piano concertos, K414 and K415 — in the whimsical expectation that they were easy enough for amateurs to try out at home.

No chancer, then or since, could bring off the pinpoint interpretation that Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal harp of the Berlin Phil, gives here with her string colleagues. Their frontline intensity, no holds barred, treats the music as weapons-grade Mozart. They are slightly less successful in the 2-piano concerto, K365. Two harps and a string quartet sound, in both senses of the word, unbalanced.

What surprises me is how swiftly the ear adjusts from anticipating a Mozart piano concerto to accepting the string quartet-plus-harp reduction. The sound is more cohesive and no less emotional, the drama every bit as intense. The allegro of K414 dances like a tarantula on hot coals, the fingers flying even faster on the harp than they could on the piano. Listen. You’ll be amazed.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | Middletown Is A Meditation On The Little Things, But Resonates With The Big Things

By Paula Citron on November 18, 2018

The lives of the residents of Middletown intersect on a powerful journey from the local library to outer space and points between.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Johannes Moser And Maximilian Hornung Make Fair Arguments For Cello Concertos

By Norman Lebrecht on November 16, 2018

This week, Norman Lebrecht highlights two new Cello concerto albums by Johannes Moser and Hornung Maximilian.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Nadine Sierra Transcends With 'There's a Place for Us'

By Norman Lebrecht on December 14, 2018

In a sea of holiday releases, Florida-born soprano Nadine Sierra’s debut album makes us thankful for an extraordinary moment of respite.
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