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Hyperion Records

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Landscape (1915) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
İ The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, USA / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67759
Recording details: March 2009
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: January 2010
Total duration: 24 minutes 43 seconds

'The Dante Quartet give a full-blooded performance, with no false delicacy … the transition to the central section of the scherzo in Ravel's quartet fades to a whisper, as preparation for the sublime dream-world ahead' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The shifts of light and shade in Debussy's String Quartet are ear-catchingly etched in by the Dante Quartet … Ravel's Quartet is ushered in with an ethereal calm that nevertheless has sufficient fibre to sustain the first movement's burst of energy. The quiet musing of the slow movement is set in dramatic contrast with the fiery finale' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The two outstanding masterpieces of the genre by French composers … the Dantes are one of the finest newish quartets based in Britain … they are alive to every nuance of these ever-fascinating works' (The Sunday Times)

'A stroke of programming genius … the Dantes make the oddball central movement of Ravel's String Quartet resonate beautifully and offer an unusually tender, otherworldly account of the Debussy' (Classic FM Magazine)

'You will experience in the group's playing some of the most exquisite gradations between dynamic markings you've ever heard … that is just one example among hundreds that make this the most expressive reading I've ever heard … an award-deserving recording … this receives the highest recommendation possible' (Fanfare, USA)

'One of the UK's finest quartets. They find all manner of shading and delicacy in the Debussy; their Ravel is a miracle of feather-light tone and seamless phrasing … for sheer refinement, sweetness and unanimity of purpose these performances strike me as exceptional' (Financial Times)

'This is magical wonderland music, with the many available versions no competition' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Rarement un quatuor a su faire preuve d'une telle souplesse de discours et d'une telle légèreté instrumentale; les Dante sont un soliste ou un orchestre, mais on oublie qu'ils sont quatre. Au-delà de cet excellent travail de quatuor, ils proposent une palette de couleurs étonnantes, jouant avec des camaïses d'une subtilité incroyable … rien que pour le Debussy, un choc, un vrai' (Classica, France)

String Quartet in G minor, L91
composer
1893; Op 10; first performed by the Ysa˙e Quartet on 29 December 1893

Très modéré  [6'54]

Other recordings available for download
The Fairfield Quartet
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
After the Franco-Prussian War and the horrors of the Commune, there was a determination to show that France was not only free of the invader, but also once again a functioning entity. The foundation of the Société Nationale de Musique in 1871, with the motto ‘Ars Gallica’, was to provide an invaluable platform for the works of younger French composers. But, for whatever reason, amid the welter of French violin sonatas, piano trios and piano quartets written in the 1870s and ’80s, string quartets were in relatively short supply, certainly from the major composers. Possibly intimidated by the ghost of Beethoven, César Franck and Fauré did not venture to write one until they were sixty-eight and seventy-nine respectively (in 1890 and 1924) and for Debussy, and later Ravel, to enter this domain around the age of thirty was to court charges of presumption.

Before the first performance of the Debussy Quartet by the Ysaÿe Quartet on 29 December 1893, audiences at the Société Nationale had already heard Debussy’s cantata La damoiselle élue, of which one critic wrote prophetically ‘this subcutaneous injection may possibly produce dangerous eruptions among the young composers of the near future’. The Quartet too was to have a decisive influence, notably on Ravel. Some of the immediate responses from the critics were enthusiastic, but not those of Chausson, with whom Debussy was very friendly at the time. It is clear from a letter Debussy wrote to him on 5 February 1894 that Chausson liked things in the work which Debussy would rather had remained undetected, and that he found Debussy’s forms lacking in decorum: ‘I’ll write another one which will be for you, and I’ll try and bring some nobility to my forms’, responded Debussy, with just a hint of acid.

We can only guess as to exactly which parts of the Quartet Chausson objected to: the scherzo perhaps, full of flying pizzicati, and very probably a reminiscence of the gamelan he had heard at the 1889 Exposition; or indeed the very opening of the first movement, where an initially impassioned modal statement simply runs out of steam by the twelfth bar, to be succeeded by an apparently unrelated theme in a quite different mood. Chausson’s view was that Debussy did not roll up his sleeves and really get to work on his material—a similar response to that from Vincent d’Indy, who later told Georges Auric that both the Debussy and Ravel quartets were no more than ‘jolis morceaux pour quatuor à cordes’.

But then Debussy always resisted orthodox ‘development’ of his ideas, much preferring to exercise a looser ‘fantaisie’ through free variation, as in the transformations of the Quartet’s opening theme, which itself owes something to Grieg’s first String Quartet, also in G minor. To label these transformations ‘cyclic’, in the manner of Franck, is to miss something of the Debussyan essence. The theme does not, for example, culminate in any grand peroration like the one in Franck’s Symphonic Variations, unkindly dubbed by Alfred Cortot ‘l’embourgeoisement du thème’. Debussy’s approach is nearer to Monet’s in recording the variations of light on the façade of Rouen Cathedral. Contemporary critics noted that in the slow movement the Russian influence was alive and well, and it could be that this whiff of exoticism struck Chausson as unpatriotic.

from notes by Roger Nichols İ 2010


Other albums featuring this work
'Debussy & Ravel: String Quartets' (CDH88018)
Debussy & Ravel: String Quartets
CDH88018  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Rights no longer controlled by Hyperion  

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