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Joaquin TURINA (1882 - 1949) La oración del torero, op.34 (1925) [8:14]
Edouard LALO (1823 - 1892) String Quartet in E♭, op.45 (1856 - 1884) [26:20]
Maurice RAVEL (1875 - 1937) String Quartet in F (1903) [29:53]
Sacconi Quartet (Ben Hancox, Hannah Dawson (violins); Robin Ashwell (viola); Cara Berridge (cello))
rec. 21-22 August 2007 (Lalo) and 3-4 December 2008, The Music Room, Champs Hill, Sussex, DDD
SACCONI RECORDS [64:30]
Experience Classicsonline



This is a very interesting collection and it’s good to hear the Ravel shorn of the Debussy Quartet, for here one hears it in a totally different context and not in the shadow of the work that so obviously inspired it.

Turina’s delightful miniature is a good opener. I’ve always found this a strange piece. Why should a prayer start with such scurrying sounds? Is this the matador sheepishly making his way into church? I wonder if he swaggered into the same Church he would do it bullishly. But I digress. Between short devout sections there are faster outbursts. What is going on? What I presume to be the prayer is a passionate affair and the piece ends with a passage which could have come out of an early Herbert Howells chamber piece. Yet … it’s a well made work, succinct and simple, as the best music should be, in my opinion, and the Sacconis play it exceptionally well, indeed, they treat it as if it were a masterpiece, But then if you don’t care for all music this way you’ll never penetrate to the heart of the greatest music.

After this Lalo’s Quartet comes as a bit of a shock because it’s a richly scored, hothouse of a piece, full of Wagnerian passion and longing. The opening movement is very strong, containing much memorable material which is well worked out. It’s very convincing and most satisfying. Perhaps, somewhat oddly, although it’s so obviously a product of the romantic era, there’s a real classical feel to it. The intensity is carried forwards into the slow movement and here is real romanticism; soaring melodies, thick, almost too much so, harmony and big climaxes with erotic cadential release - Tristan really does have a lot to answer for! The scherzo starts with a violent outburst, this is totally unexpected, then contrasts this idea with more relaxed music. Lalo displays a real obsession with his ferocious material and he builds a fine, robust, and physically powerful, movement out of the contrast between his musics, yet it ends quietly with a whisper. The finale returns to the feel of the opening movement but doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the opening material and the coda is somewhat humdrum.

The Ravel Quartet is so well known as to need no introduction. The Sacconis know this music well and thus indulge in some wonderful pieces of interpretation, for instance in the first movement there is the most subtle, and I really mean subtle, use of rubato to colour a phrase - this is exceptional music making - the scherzo has an urgency which I’d hitherto missed, and the trio is muted (not literally) and an oasis of calm in the midst of the frantic hurry of the pizzicato and the transition back to the scherzo is masterly. The slow movement is graced with the fine cello of Cara Berridge. About a year ago, at the Wigmore Hall, the Australian Chamber Orchestra played an arrangement of the finale of the Ravel Quartet as an orchestral piece and it was staggering. It sounded so symphonic! This performance of that same movement has exactly the same forward propulsion, delivering that special wow! moment so often missing from recordings. For me, this is the finest version of the Ravel currently available.

Suffice it to say, I am a big fan of the Sacconi Quartet and can hardly wait to hear them again, both on disk and in the flesh. The recording here is of demonstration quality, but be warned, the Lalo starts at a much higher volume than the end of the Turina and it comes as a bit of a jolt. The notes are good and the presentation delightful. Get it without delay. It can be downloaded from the Sacconi’s own website at www.sacconi.com. Don’t wait for Christmas, you need this now.

Bob Briggs  

see also

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809) String Quartet in G, op.54/1 (1788) [19:09] String Quartet in C, op.54/2 (1788) [20:19] String Quartet in E, op.54/3 (1788) [23:40] Sacconi Quartet (Ben Hancox, Hannah Dawson (violins); Robin Ashwell (viola); Cara Berridge (cello)) rec. 21 - 22 July and 4 August 2008, The Music Room, Champs Hill, Sussex, DDD
SACCONI RECORDS no serial number [63:13] RECORDING OF THE MONTH - October

 


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