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Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor (1939)
String Quartet No. 2 in F major (1943)
Piano Quintet in F sharp minor (1917-22)
Romance for Violin and Piano in A major (1901)
Variations chantantes sur un air ancien for Cello and Piano (1905)
Deux Improvisations sur des airs irlandais for Cello and Piano (1911)
Quatuor Tchalik
Dania Tchalik (piano)
rec. 2019, La Seine Musicale, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Founded in 2013, the Quatuor Tchalik is a family affair - Gabriel and Louise (violins), Sarah (viola) and Marc Tchalik (cello). They are frequently joined by Dania on piano. They’ve performed together from an early age, so there’s an intuitive understanding between them, which certainly reveals itself in their music-making. They’ve chosen a programme featuring the music of the Venezuelan-born French composer, Reynaldo Hahn. Best known for his songs and operettas, the chamber music comprises some of his finest scores.

Both String Quartets emerged from the composer’s last creative period. The Second World War had left its mark and, although saddened, his inspiration remained intact. The String Quartet No. 1 in A minor is steeped throughout in nostalgia. The opening measures are an awakening before the movement takes off in more joyous vein. The second movement is dreamy and wistful and is followed by an Andantino similarly cast. It’s only in the finale that any sense of gaiety emerges, where the interweaving lines between the instruments is conversational in manner. There’s a glance backwards a couple of times, recalling the joyous passage in the first movement.

Four years later in 1943 Hahn penned his Second Quartet in F major. It’s a more accomplished and elaborate affair, again in four movements. The first movement has an energy to it, but also luxuriates in beguiling lyricism. The second movement is flighty and whimsical and acts as a sort of scherzo. The slow movement is an absolute delight. Warm, expressive and poignant, it tugs at the heart strings. The work ends with a carefree finale.

The Piano Quintet was composed in 1922 and published the following year. Easy on the ear and warmly tuneful, it has immediate appeal, which explains its popularity during the composer’s lifetime. Quite why it’s not more well-known today is difficult to explain. In three movements, the opener is lavish, big-boned and highly dramatic. By contrast, the Andante non troppo lento is soulful and introspective, and one can detect a hint of Fauré. The sunny final movement has an insouciant charm, and delights for its sunny disposition.

The Romance for Violin and Piano is an enchanting salon piece, exquisitely realized in a radiantly heartfelt reading by Gabriel and Dania Tchalik. Variations chantantes sur un air ancient for cello and piano is based on an aria from Francesco Cavalli’s opera Xerse. It’s character is noble and dignified. Deux Improvisations sur des airs irlandais, also for the same instrumental combination, date from 1894 following a visit the composer made to England. The pieces are titled The Little Red-Lark and The Willow-Tree. They’re based on airs by Alfred Perceval Graves and Charles Stanford, taken from the collection Songs of Old Ireland and beautifully realized by Marc and Dania Tchalik.

All told, the Tchaliks deliver stylish and idiomatic performances. They’re blessed with an attractive and responsive acoustic, and the sound quality is second-to-none. This is a most enjoyable recording, giving pleasure from beginning to end.

Stephen Greenbank

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