As I continue my exploration of today's (younger) string quartets, I came across a group new to me - the Armida Quartett playing Mozart. I was instantly intrigued because I recognize their handsome cellist as being a principal in the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, whose wonderful YouTube concerts I watch all the time.
At first, their Mozart is interesting in a way that makes one wonder, 'Well, is this really the way it was played in Mozart's day?' But as it continues, and becomes more and more irritating, I just can't believe Mozart would approve.
It's not just the icy violin sound, sans vibrato; nor is it the limited fullness and commanding presence from the viola and cello. Lots of groups adopt a playing style like this in an attempt at "period performance practice". But the Armida Quartett takes it even further down that path which affects the lyrical passages the most. Their playing takes on a rather limp and deadpan sound which results in an overall lack of warmth and expression. While I appreciate the crisp articulation, alert tempos and dynamic range, I am left completely unmoved by the chilliness. This simply cannot be "authentic". I will never buy into the suggestion that this is "right". It's not "revelatory". It's not a "new way to hear it". It's not even all that musically pleasing.
I had high hopes for this quartet, and one cannot criticize their technical abilities. There is a notable perfection to their playing, along with a unified ensemble. Perhaps in contemporary repertoire I would be more impressed. But I can say in all honesty I'm glad I started with just one of their Mozart recordings before buying all the rest. This one is a 2-disc set from 2020 and appears to be Volume 3 in a series from BR Klassik, whose recorded sound mirrors the playing: clear, crisp and somewhat lacking in warmth.
Any group which manages to make Mozart irritating is simply unacceptable in my book. I won't be buying any more of these.