Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Maurice RAVEL (1875 - 1937)
String Quartet in F Major 31.09
Gabriel FAURÉ
(1845 -1924)
String Quartet in E Minor. Op. 121 25.15
Ad Libitum Quartet.
Recorded Iasi, Romania May 1999 DDD Naxos 8.554722 [56'35"]

The link between the two composers represented on this CD - both French but a generation apart - is that Ravel studied under Fauré and always had the greatest affection for him and for his work, and dedicated his String Quartet to his mentor.

Listening to the two works together shows no discernible stylistic link between the two. Ravel was always his own man prepared to go his own way. He was still in his late twenties when the Quartet in F was completed and first performed. Minor revisions followed for a re-published version in 1910.

The Quartet is a much played and much recorded work that seems to be regarded as a challenge by ensembles. On this disc the Ad Libitum Quartet - a Rumanian group new to me - shows itself to be an excellent unit. It has attack - (jumping from the speakers at the opening of the Finale) - and imagination and integration aplenty. The players seemed at ease with the work and with the inner parts clearly defined their approach has the subtlety to capture the emotion of the slow movement.

The recording is close up - some listeners may find it too much so - but the balance is a happy one. If you like a high powered, dynamic approach this version would appeal to you. I certainly liked it.

Gabriel Fauré was an old man of 80 when he finished his three movement E Minor Quartet. This was his only Quartet and the last work he wrote before he died. It has a lot of the valediction about it and is almost "otherworldly" at times. Introspective, almost melancholic, it repays close listening. Three moderately paced movements, a minimum of extremes dynamically, no attractive tune to latch on to - its beauties are there, but they don't get under the skin easily. The Rumanian group handles this taxing material with delicacy and skill. Another strong recommendation.


Harry Downey



Harry Downey

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