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Nicolas DALAYRAC (1753-1809)
String Quartet Op. 7 No. 5 in E flat major [6:40]
Jean RIVIER (1896-1987)
String Quartet No. 2 in F major [18:12]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
String Quartet [22:15]
Quatuor Pascal
rec. 1939-1951, Paris
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1570 [47:10]

The Quatuor Pascal was active during the 1940s and 50s, becoming a leading exponent of the French performance tradition. It was founded by viola player Léon Pascal. The other members were Jacques Dumont and Maurice Crut (1st and 2nd violins) and Robert Salles (cello). Here we hear the group firmly in its comfort zone playing string quartets by three very different French composers. The earliest of the recordings is the Dalayrac, dating from 1939. The other two were set down in the early 1950s. 

Nicolas Dalayrac had initially trained as a lawyer until his father urged him to follow his instincts and pursue a career in music. He was obliged to change his name from the aristocratic ‘D'Alayrac’.  Early on he composed violin duets, string trios and quartets, but later devoted himself to his passion, opéra comiques, a genre he was quite prolific in, composing nearly sixty. Between 1777 and 1781 he wrote six sets of string quartets (Op. 4, 5, 7, 8 10 and 11), with each set containing six. Having a duration just shy of seven minutes, the String Quartet we have here is No. 5 from Op. 7. In two movements, the first alternates lyrical warmth with declamatory gestures. This is followed by an elegant Menuetto. If you’re a fan of Haydn and Boccherini quartets then I've no doubt that this will appeal.

I've reviewed several other releases from Forgotten Records featuring the music of Jean Rivier, symphonies and a piano concerto (review ~ review ~ review). My reviews supply background on the composer, so I won't cover it again here. The ensemble perform the second of his two string quartets, the one in F major. Unless I’m mistaken, my research tells me that this is the only recording of the work. In three movements, the first is laid-back and carefree and has a sunny disposition.  A Lento follows, a wistful glance back in time. As it progresses it works up quite a head of steam, only to return to a mood of nostalgic reminiscence. The finale is chirpy and light-hearted, bouncing along without a care in the world.

André Jolivet studied composition with Paul Le Flem and avant-garde composer Edgar Varèse, and he himself taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire from 1966 until 1970. As a composer he was prolific, embracing many genres, including symphonies, concertante works, chamber music, operas and ballets. His music veers towards atonality. His early String Quartet, written in 1934 when he was in his late 20s, is concise and draws influences from Bartók, Schoenberg and Berg. Two animated outer movements bookend a doleful middle movement, which has a static and introspective character. It seems so weighed down and doom-laden, that even the Vif third movement doesn’t fully cast off the pain and angst.

The sound quality of the Jolivet is dim and murky, with the other two quartets faring much better. The value of the release lies in the fact that the Rivier and Jolivet don’t seem to be otherwise available. No notes are supplied with this one. It is without doubt a thought-provoking disc.

Stephen Greenbank



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