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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Syrinx (1913) [2:34]
String Quartet in G Minor, Op.10 (1893) [25:33]*
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
String Quartet in F (1903) [29:04]*
Introduction and Allegro (1905) [10:59] ^
Philippa Davies (flute), Chilingirian Quartet*, Markus Klinko (harp)^, soloists of the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris Bastille^.
rec. St Martin's, East Woodhay, June 1989; Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, June 1983*; St-Marcel, Paris, March 1993^. DDD
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 0946 3 82231 2 2 [68:35]


Classics for Pleasure is getting hold of some great digital material nowadays to supplement the trusty analogue back catalogue. 

The Chilingirian Quartet is one of the best British quartets of the last 30 years or so. They have recorded fairly extensively for British labels, including CRD, Chandos and Hyperion. Their EMI discography is not huge, but it includes these 1983 performances of the Debussy and Ravel quartets as a foretaste of their later successes for Hyperion with Chausson and D'Indy, and Hahn and Vierne.

Both the Debussy and the Ravel quartets receive bold, strong readings from the Chilingirians. The Debussy is especially ardent and virile, not at all the delicate wash you may expect. There is tenderness in the slow movement though. Philip De Groote's gutsy cello is especially distinctive, a rock solid voice that underpins the performance.

The Ravel receives a more conventional reading. The famous pizzicato second movement is light and sprightly, with strong rhythmic pointing. Levon Chilingirian's tone in the big sweeping violin statement in this movement is not as sweet as some, but his intensity is winning. Tempi are well chosen throughout and ensemble is tight.

These performances compare well with my reference recording from the Alban Berg Quartet, also on EMI. The Chilingirians do not match their Austrian colleagues in sheen and sheer dazzle, but they do not aim to. Their readings of these quartets are more red-blooded, making these performances excellent alternative accounts for the library, though they remain idiomatic enough to be a good recommendation for new initiates. 

Classics for Pleasure has taken these excellent performances, and framed them with some complementary tracks from the same composers. The Debussy quartet is preceded by a tiny work for flute. Debussy wrote Syrinx as incidental music to Psyché, a play by Gabriel Mourey. Designed to evoke Pan's flute, it receives a strong rather than a languid performance from Philippa Davies. 

At the other end of the disc comes the glitter and shimmer of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro. At its heart this is a showpiece for harp and Markus Klinko and his six supporting artists from the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris Bastille do not disappoint.

At the Classics for Pleasure price, this is a bargain.

Tim Perry




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