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Guillaume LEKEU (1870-1894)
Piano Quartet (1894) [24.40]
Molto Adagio for string quartet (1887) [11.45]
String Quartet (1887) [35.27]
Jan Michiels (piano)
Spiegel String Quartet
rec. Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, 8-10 Dec 2003. DDD

The standing Lekeu's music is in some ways rather like that of Butterworth and Cecil Coles. They all died young with the promise of great things to come. All of them also left works themselves intrinsically impressive and loveable.

Lekeu studied in Paris with D'Indy and Franck. As expected, his two-movement Piano Quartet is surgingly passionate with texture piled on texture relieved by melodies that positively sing out towards the listener. The second movement - a Lent et passionné - is a lovingly calming oasis which ends in peaceful audacity. The Piano Quartet was his last completed composition before typhoid carried him off.

The Molto Adagio is marked sempre cantante doloroso which pretty much says it all. It looks back in lugubrious if polished sentimentality towards Massenet and Gounod.

The 1887 String Quartet is in six movements. It was written by the seventeen year old composer while he was in thrall to the late Beethoven quartets. It shares their manner of exaltation and insight into shining mysteries but is without their probing profundity. Then again Lekeu could pull off breathtakingly touching episodes such as the iteration of enchanted birdsong at the start of the Capriccio (tr. 6). The Poco Allegro (tr. 8) is almost Viennese and on several occasions it is the Mozart's cassations and divertimenti that are invoked.

The academic aspects of Dr Mark Delaere's notes are lightened by his illuminating asides about the Lekeu biography and by extracts from the composerís letters.

If you enjoy the Chausson Concert, Fauré's First Piano Quartet and the chamber music of Max d'Ollonne you need to hear this. Fine as it is there is much more to Lekeu than just the Ysaÿe-commissioned Violin Sonata.

Rob Barnett

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