Thursday, January 18, 2018

Joseph Schuster String Quartets -- as good as Mozart's?

So just how good are these string quartets? Good enough to be attributed to Mozart. Joseph Schuster (1748-1812) wrote these six string quartets in 1780, on commission from Marquis Giuseppe Ximenes, an ardent amateur violinist. The Paduan-based Ximenes collected string quartets from all of the important composers of the day -- including Mozart.

The full story of how Schuster's Paduan quartets became mixed up with Mozart's Milanese quartets is told in the booklet. It's a convoluted tale, but fascinating reading. So, too, the story of how scholars eventually sorted out the authorship of these works.

And while the story adds interest, the music stands on its own merits. The quartets are a set of six, three-movement works. They do sound somewhat like Mozart, with the same light texture and inventiveness.

Because these were written for amateur musicians, the technical demands are light. Schuster makes up for that by making every note count. The ensemble may sound transparent, but motivically this is music of real substance.

The Quartetto Joseph Joachim performs with instruments of the period. They play in a simple, yet deliberate fashion. The end result is some finely nuanced performances that reward the attentive listener.

Joseph Schuster: String Quartets
Quondam Mozart, KV Anh. 210-213
Quartetto Joseph Joachim
Pan Classics PC 10379

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