(published first at ionarts)
Hardly a month goes by without a new recording of Mendelssohn quartets being on my desk for review. (Next month it will be the Pacifica Quartet's complete set, and some weeks ago it was the Emerson.) Right off the bat, you can hear the differences in tone from the Eroica Quartet and most of the (numerous) competition. Strident, dark, metallic almost—far from soft or round, it is an exciting tone, if you want a change from the more common warmth in these works. The playing is generally very good, but not as polished in op. 44, no. 3, as I'd expect from a studio recording (no such complaints as regards op. 80 and the pieces for string quartet op. 81). If you like the particular, "Romantic period performance style" of the quartet and how it has been recorded (perhaps you have heard the previous two installments of their now complete cycle), you will find it a splendid finale. (Their practices, utilizing fingering of Mendelssohn's time, include plenty of portamento, ferocious bowstrokes, and little continuous vibrato.) If you like it just a tad more conventional, I don't see this disc high up on your wish list, especially not at full price when the complete and dependable Ysaÿe cycle barely costs more.
F. Mendelssohn, String Quartets, Vol. 3, Eroica Quartet