The Chiaroscuro Quartet – aptly named for their attention to the light and shade of the pieces they play – was formed out of their years studying together at the Royal College of Music in London, and under their charismatic leader Alina Ibragimova they have established themselves as perhaps their generation’s leading historically informed performers of the Classical and early Romantic repertoire.
What they bring to the table is immediately apparent from the opening bars of their latest release, the first three quartets of Haydn’s Op. 76 set. The declamatory three chords announcing the first quartet sets off with a spirited allegro , which is taken at a sprightly clip, setting the scene for a gorgeously realised survey of these works, culminating in a magisterial reading of the Emperor .
This work, of course, gets its name from the second movement variations on Haydn’s hymn to Emperor Franz II, which was later filched by the Germans for their national anthem.
Ibragimova’s assuredness and authority shine through, and there is plenty of fine interplay between her and second violinist Pablo Hernan Benedi,...