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Joseph-Guy ROPARTZ (1864-1955)
String Quartet No. 3 (1925) [27:03]
String Quartet No. 2 (1911-12) [31:14]
Quatuor Stanislas (Laurent Causse, violin I; Bertrand Menut, violin II; Paul Fenton, viola; Jean de Spengler, cello)
rec. Nancy Opéra, France, 6-9 July 2004. DDD
World premiere recordings
TIMPANI 1C1099 [58:17]


Ropartz and Timpani; two names that are becoming inseparable. This connoisseurs label has been the enthusiastic and enthusing advocate of Ropartz for many years. While one of their Ropartz efforts proved small beer (the Orchestra de Bretagne anthology) all of their other Ropartz discs have been cause for celebration. Their CD of symphonies 2 and 5 has just been issued. Le Pays - Ropartzís opera - was splendidly done by Timpani a couple of years back and is well worth tracking down for its stark rather than lush take on French late-romantic opera.

Their Ropartz chamber music recital on Timpani 1C1047 including the Fourth Quartet makes for a satisfying cross-section. That recording of No. 4, made in 1996, was by ĎEnsemble Stanislasí - presumably the same ensemble now making this intégrale.

The Third Quartet comes first. It was premiered by the Calvet Quartet. In four movements - just like the Second - it is a passionate work often akin to the Ravel quartet in its ecstatic crooning. It opens with a recurrent lapping and sighing motif evolving into an exciting climactic statement. The finaleís memorably sun-soaked contentment is nicely set off by the slightly acerbic tone of the two violins and contrasts with the sinister expressionist (Zemlinsky, Van Dieren) episodes in the Lento. The Second Quartet pre-dates the Great War and is predominantly quite different in character from No. 3. Contrary to my expectations of an optimistic serenading work the music is at first classically severe with occasional relaxation in the first movement into folk-like dances and lissom asides as at 5:33. The Assez vif (II) is also fairly stern although the hiccuping figure (1:19, II) recalls Dukasís apprentice and Berliozís capering demons. The dignified music of the long Très lent (III) sustains the mood and provides a meditative romantic-spiritual preparation for the plunging and singing finale. This harks back to earlier movements, artfully weaving the instrumental threads together. Across its four movements the work traces a path from rigidity and darkness into a pliant and healthy light-filled landscape.

As with most if not all Timpani releases this disc is presented in a hard-card folding frame with the booklet slipped into a slit on the inside front cover. The CD is stem-mounted on a plastic case onto the inside rear section of the card-fold. Itís all tastefully designed. In fact everything is done in sympathy with a completely satisfying visual effect.

The Third Quartet was dedicated to another one of the great neglecteds of France, the composer G. M. Witkowski (any thoughts, Timpani?). Paul Dukas was the dedicatee of the Second.

Ropartzís complete string quartets are being recorded by Timpani with Quatuor Stanislas in the opera house in Nancy under the aegis of Opéra National de Nancy et de Lorraine. When completed the line-up is expected to be as follows:-

Vol. 1 Quartets 2 and 3

Vol. 2 Quartets 4, 5 and 6 (November 2006)

Vol. 3 Quartet 1 and Pieces for quartet (2007)

I wish them every success.

This is an easily recommendable disc setting out on a formidably desirable pioneering project. These quartets, ably and sympathetically performed, should both satisfy and whet the appetite of any admirer of 20th century melodic chamber music. Two more volumes to come!

Rob Barnett



Symphonies 1 and 4
Timpani - opera Le Pays
Timpani chamber music incl. String Quartet No. 4
Timpani - La Chasse and various song cycles
Timpani - Petite Symphonie and other orchestral

Arion solo piano music

Marco Polo - Masses and Motets

Marco Polo/Naxos
Le Miracle and other choral-orchestral


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