Hyperion has reissued on its midpriced Helios label this fine program of English works for string quartet, recorded in 1994. The composers, born approximately 20 years apart in the order given in the headnote, offer an insight into the evolutionary trends in British music before, throughout, and after the 20th century’s two Great Wars.
The venerable pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio joins the Emerson Quartet for two memorable performances. To the uncommon clarity and rhythmic drive of the string players, Menahem Pressler adds some of his own expansive personality. The mix works beautifully. You can hear every note in the scores, and everything is played with great expression and enough rhythmic tension to keep the music flowing.
Piotr Anderszewski and the Belcea Quartet make superb partners in one of Shostakovich’s most performed chamber works. They present the powerful and highly approachable Piano Quintet with playing of colossal tensile strength, a tightly focused sound and yet with a willingness to respond to the work’s undeniable lyricism. The work’s rigour is striking when performed with this kind of intensity and concentration. The Third Quartet (1946) remains one of Shostakovich’s finest—and one of his favourites, perhaps because it responds so powerfully to the combustible events of the time. The Belceas capture its sardonic, sometimes violent, mood to perfection.
On this new release, the Doric String Quartet turns to the music of Franz Schubert. It is the Quartet's fifth solid release for Chandos. MusicWeb International said of the recent Korngold release, 'The Doric Quartet seem to have a Midas touch, and any repertoire they commit to disc comes out sparkling'. Their Schumann release was 'Recording of the Month' in Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine.
The gifted Belgian Quatuor Danel turn to two masterpieces by César Franck: his passionate Piano Quintet and the String Quartet. The three-movement Quintet, like Brahms’s op. 34 an expansion of the Schumannian model, is one of Franck’s most infamous works. It immediately established itself, and a second performance with the pianist Marie Poitevin, the later dedicatee of the Prélude, Choral et Fugue, convinced the members of the Société Nationale. Franck’s String Quartet, his last major work, was similarly acclaimed by its first listeners. After its first performance in April 1890, with tears in his eyes, César Franck is said to have told his pupil Vincent d’Indy, “Now you see: at long last the public is beginning to understand me.”