Early Music Review, February 2015

A Viennese Quartet Party:

String Quartets by Haydn, Mozart, Vanhal & Dittersdorf

     I am rather surprised that it has taken so long for someone to realise this project; Michael Kelly's legendary account of hearing these four composers playing string quartets together is surely all the excuse required to go looking for suitable repertoire for a recording? Not to worry, though - The Revolutionary Drawing Room are well worth the wait! Both of the quartets by Mozart and Haydn are well known, yet there was much to discover in these finely nuanced performances; those by [Vanhal] and Dittersdorf are tuneful and enjoyable, but (and I almost hate myself for committing this thought to print) these are two men who are comfortable in this medium, without any desire to try radical alternatives - both pieces are imaginative and tuneful, but there is none of the ultra-witty Haydn or any sign of the harmonic daring of the Mozart. Of course, they had different target audiences, with [Vanhal] more interested in catering for amateurs and dilettantes. The Revolutionary Drawing Room are a formidable quartet, whose virtuosity is matched by their exemplary balance, fine characterisation of light shade, and their insightful attention to every detail of the scores. The quartets are introduced by readings from Kelly's book...

- Brian Clark