- String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 2 No. 4
- String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 2 No. 5
- String Quartet in D major, Op. 2 No. 6
The current expansion of the Classical-era repertory, with thanks due in many cases to the Naxos label, has only rarely touched on Haydn's student Ignaz Pleyel, although his name surfaces during several key episodes in Haydn's life. Pleyel, said to be one of 38 (!) children, traveled to Italy after studying with his famous teacher, so one might expect music with Mozartian as well as Haydn-esque qualities. Both are there in this music, but the overall effect, to Pleyel's credit, does not sound derivative of either composer. Pleyel wrote the six mostly three-movement quartets of his Opus 2 (this CD is one of a pair from the Enso Quartet covering the entire set) in the early 1780s, during a period when both Haydn and Mozart had given up quartet composition. He seems to be consciously trying to fill the void, with spacious movement structures whose parts relate to each other in logical ways while the local surfaces remain sparkling and graceful. If Pleyel had neither Haydn's skill with motives nor Mozart's with melodies, these three quartets nevertheless reveal mature and highly listenable pieces that hold one's attention all the way through and have much to offer the lover or student of Classical style. The Enso Quartet, which is American and not Japanese, plays enthusiastically, with a sense of Pleyel's ambition. The only real flaw here is the Naxos sound, which somehow manages to be too intimate, picking up breathing and other extraneous noise, and yet to carry a chilly, empty-auditorium remoteness.