Armida Quartet releases box set with its complete Mozart recording of all 23 string quartets

After eight years, the Armida Quartet is concluding its complete Mozart recording of all 23 string quartets with a boxed set that is being released on the CAvi label on February 3, 2023, and contains all seven CDs / five volumes.

The quartet completed its sensational project, begun in 2015, last autumn. In its course, the ensemble carried out essential research to come up with a modernised interpretation of the original scores. This led to a new four-volume urtext edition for the Henle Verlag being created parallel to the recording in collaboration with the manuscript expert Wolf-Dieter Seiffert.

These many years of work have made it possible to put the Mozart string quartets through a kind of fountain of youth. That includes freeing them from the age-old patina of traditional editing with its false interpretations and typographical errors, and incorporating the latest musicological insights, particularly in relation to dynamics and articulation. The quartet’s meticulous review and analysis of the sources and preparation of them for practical use have opened a new chapter in Mozart studies, with both listeners and performers standing to benefit from the new urtext edition.

To achieve this, Johanna Staemmler and Martin Funda (violins), Teresa Schwamm (viola) and Peter Philipp Staemmler (violoncello) had first to interrogate their own learned routines for playing Mozart, realising in the process “that urtext can, in fact, be very alive, not something for the museum. You go right back again to the basics that we have, to all the information that can be found,” violinist Johanna Staemmler says. “That has made our Mozart freer – partly because we could emancipate ourselves from the interpretations that already exist. This study of the sources has really made us different now.” For Marcus Stäbler from the magazine Fono Forum, this allowed the Armidas to set “new standards” with Vol. 4, and in 2022 they received the OPUS Klassik prize in the category of chamber-music recording of the year.

Just as bracing as the quartet’s youthful, fresh look at the scores is the (deliberately non-chronological) order of works in each volume, with the combination of pieces from different creative periods making it possible to hear cross-connections that have been little noticed until now.