Mendelssohn’s six string quartets don’t get the airplay they deserve, being overshadowed by Beethoven and Schubert’s. There are plenty of recordings out there, but few to rival this new double disc from Berlin’s Artemis Quartet, which has established itself as a leader among the new generation of ensembles.

Formed 18 years ago, they have built a strong following wherever they’ve played – including tours here with Musica Viva. Natalia Prischepenko left last year and this is our first chance to hear the Artemis with their new leader, Latvian violinist Vineta Sareika. I can tell you that this stunningly good band – Gregor Sigl, violin, Friedemann Weigle, viola, and Eckart Runge, cello – has lost nothing in the transition. Their authority and musicality are intact and they still have that chemistry that makes them so special.

They’ve chosen works from three periods of Mendelssohn’s short career. The Op 13, his second quartet, was written in 1827 when he was 18 and is a memorial to Beethoven, being inspired by the great Op 135 “muss es sein? (must it be?)”. Mendelssohn’s third quartet, is
the composer at his sunniest and its blue skies first movement makes the perfect opening. The final quartet is a grief-stricken epitaph for the composer’s beloved sister Fanny, who died in 1847, and for Mendelssohn himself who worked himself to death, literally, six months later. Exquisite. A must buy.