Maxwell Quartet - Haydn: String Quartets Op. 71 - The Strad
The debut album of the Scottish-founded Maxwell Quartet showcases a lot of what this group is about. Alternating classical quartets with traditional Scottish numbers, it sparkles with conviviality and palpable enjoyment of the music.
The quartet - friends since their teens and uniformly bearded - won both the first prize and audience price at the 2017 Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition.
Their Haydn relished the cross-rhythms, accented off-beats, flying semiquavers and all the other displays of wit that the composer of op.71, basking in his international success, beamed out on humanity.
With crisp articulation, well-judged tempos and a clear, open recorded sound, there is much to enjoy here. In the Adagio cantabile of no.2, first violinist Colin Scobie's delicate, sweetly-toned playing floats high above the other instruments, and the group relishes the frisky octave leaps in the Menuetto.
Interspersed between the Haydn quartets are the players' own haunting arrangements of Scottish folk music. Second violin George Smith takes the lead in these, playing movingly over harmonium-like chords in The Rosebud of Allenvale and whisking us into the dance in his own wedding jig. The closing track, Gregor's Lament gives cellist Duncan Strachan and violist Elliott Perks the melodic spotlight in a searing expression of profound grief.