Pleyel Prussian Quartets Nos. 1-3

When Frederick William II became King of Prussia in 1786, many German composers paid the cello-playing monarch tribute with dedicated compositions. One of the first gifts to arrive was a set of twelve quartets by Ignaz Pleyel. With this release, the Pleyel Quartett Köln continues their traversal of the “Prussian” quartets.

Although similar in style to his contemporaries Haydn and Mozart, in comparison Pleyel’s quartets seem to have a stripped-down simplicity. The melodies have an elegant balance to them, moving in a logical fashion from cadence to cadence. Pleyel might not be breaking new ground with these works, but there’s enough originality to make them worthy of repeated listening.

The Pleyel Quartett Köln continues the same high quality of performance they established with the previous releases in this series. Their period instruments give the works a somewhat soft sound, especially on the unison attacks. The players nicely balance classical reserve with expressive energy, which I think adds to the attractiveness of the works. My only complaint is that the ensemble seems to be recorded a little too distantly (with no room ambiance to compensate).

CPO began this series with quartets Nos. 7-9, then released Nos. 4-6. Perhaps Nos. 10-12 will follow shortly. I, for one, am looking forward to the completion of Pleyel’s attractive coronation gift.

Ignaz Pleyel: “Prussian” Quartets Nos. 1-3, Ben 331-333
Peyel Quartett Köln

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