> Rare works for String Quartet ADW7309 [JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805) String Quartet Op 58 No 5 "Cornemuses"
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Quartet No 13
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Crisantemi; Tre Minuetti
Eugene YSAYE (1858-1931) Paganini Variations adapted for quartet Jacques Ysaye
Quatuor Arte del Suono
Recorded Chapelle de Berchem St-Agathe January 1994
PAVANE ADW 7309 [61.20]


Experience Classicsonline

This is a release that will be of interest on several fronts. Firstly it resurrects what is claimed to be three premiere recordings – a quartet by Boccherini, the three Minuets by Puccini and an arrangement of a posthumous work by Ysaye, his Paganini Variations. Secondly it showcases the quartet organised by the much-admired violinist Lola Bobesco. Romanian born Bobesco (née Violeta Bobescu) won the Prix d’excellence at the Paris Conservatoire in 1935 and has been based for much of her professional life in Belgium. The Quatuor Arte del Suono was founded in 1991 with fellow professors at Belgium’s Royal Academies and this recording dates from 1994. And thirdly the music itself is never without interest.

The Boccherini is a charming four-movement work that begins with an andante in the classical manner both portentous and affecting. In the succeeding Allegretto the first and second violins take turns leading, enjoying the harmonic excursions the composer provides for them. The third movement, most oddly, is "come prima" – that is, a repeat of the opening andante with minimal differences, notably a two bar descent in flats. The finale is the movement that has given the quartet its nickname – Cornemuses or bagpipes. Humorous, scurrying, with a securely anchored cello, the imitation bagpipes drone in slow tempo <sample 1> adding colour and density as well as pleasurable absurdity to the work. One of Boccherini’s clever fake endings brings to a conclusion a charmingly amiable work. Donizetti wrote seventeen quartets and No. 13 is an unsullied and attractively slight work in A major. It has a graceful and tuneful first movement with perhaps rather too much unison writing for its own good. In the second, introduced by the second violin, affecting and unclouded lyricism prevails whilst the notable feature of the Minuet is the clever delayed entry of the single voices one after the other. Lyrico-dramatic impulse drives the finale with virtuosic duetting between violins and charmingly songful.

Puccini’s Crisantemi was written in memory of the Duke of Aosta in 1890. It opens harmonically and thematically in questing spirit, is multi-sectional within its six minute span and affectingly vocal and plangent <sample 2> without resorting to bathos. The three Minuetti are pleasant, antique trifles. After Eugene Ysaye’s death in 1931 the manuscript of the Paganini Variations for violin and piano was discovered. It was subsequently adapted for quartet by Ysaye’s grandson, Jacques, expressly for the Quatuor Arte del Suono. It’s a theme and thirteen variations on the famous 24th Caprice - not top drawer Ysaye and the adaptation inevitably thins the virtuoso line; nevertheless there is still plenty of virtuoso rhetoric to enjoy. At one point it is distinctly reminiscent of another adaptation, the Halvorsen-Handel Passacaglia <sample 3> and there is much scurrying up and down the fingerboard, imitative violin trilling, a delightful all pizzicato passage and some relaxed lyrical writing.

The Alberni Quartet has recorded the Donizetti Quartet and the Puccini Crisantemi on CRD 3366 but, primus inter pares or not, Bobesco and her talented colleagues have given us a well-considered and affectionate disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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