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Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
String Quartet in C minor Op. 35 (completed by Vincent d'Indy) (1900) [30.39]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)

String Quartet in D major Op. 45 (1932) [20.48]
Albéric MAGNARD (1865-1914)

String Quartet in E minor Op. 16 (1903) [43.17]
Quatuor Via Nova: (Jean Mouillère, Hervé le Floch (violins); Gerard Caussée (viola); René Benedetti (cello) (Chausson, Roussel). (Jean Mouillère, Jean-Pierre Sabouret (violins); Claude Naveau (viola); Jean-Marie Gamard (cello) (Magnard).
rec. Studio 106, Radio France, Oct 1985 (Magnard); 1970, no details for Chausson; Roussel. DDD, ADD
WARNER APEX 2564 61368 2 [2CD 51:27 + 43.17]

Three French string quartets in idiomatic performances and vivid recordings.

You may well be familiar with these recordings from the Erato stable. Bless Warners for giving them a new lease of life at a price unimaginably attractive when these were first issued. The set has many virtues and the performances are completely consonant with the inherent character of the music. None of these works are exactly common and I certainly hope that collectors will be tempted to chance their arm for an experimental listen.

The Chausson is bathed in a late-romantic warmth, an aura glows over the contours of the themes. There is a most lovely Très Calme middle movement ending with a sigh. The Via Nova project inwardness and concentration. The quartet was left incomplete when Chausson died as a result of a cycling accident. He had completed the first two movements and most of the third. D'Indy finished the work from Chausson's sketches giving it a superb and blazingly affirmative finale. It works very well as a mood-piece although the lyrical themes lack strongly memorable character.

The Roussel is the latest work here. It is from his neo-classical phase. There are four movements. Roussel died in the Atlantic resort of Royan in 1927 five years after completing this quartet. Chaffing vigour, impudence, even brashness are to be found here. There is a mesmerising adagio reaching back to the Chausson Très Calme and to Schubert's String Quintet.

The Magnard dwarfs the other two quartets both in duration and in mastery of expression. It is much closer in style to the Chausson than to the Roussel although the busy rhythmic interest of the Sérénade sometimes seems to look forward to Roussel. Magnard has less of a tendency to luxuriate in the warmth of the writing. There is a more lively feeling to the writing with plenty of variety and active detailing. The third movement is a Chant Funèbre; it breathes tragedy and the memory of days gone by. At the end of the movement the music glistens with silvery magic. The finale is called Danses. The contrapuntal riches continue, threaded through with Franckian melos and mixed with the mystery of the late quartets of Beethoven. The approach remains committedly late-romantic.

Very good notes by Raymond McGill. Packaging typical of the Apex line. Single width case.

Rob Barnett

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