By Ivan Hewett
There are few string quartets I would bet I could spot in a blind test, but the Zehetmair Quartet is one. It’s not an ingratiating sound they make, but it is certainly hyper-alert, every phrase and every textural detail weighed and scrubbed clean of routine.
Combined with their appearance – all in black, with no music stands (the quartet plays from memory) – that sound tells you you’re in for something serious. That quality was especially vivid in Mozart’s slender G-major quartet, written when the composer was only 16. So much of its music consists of beautifully turned rococo clichés laid end to end, but they were so vividly characterised by the players that they seemed weighty and interesting.
After the Mozart came something genuinely dense, the 2nd quartet by the great Swiss oboist and composer Heinz Holliger.
Listen to the 1st string quartet here: