Debussy; Dutilleux; Ravel String Quartets

A starry ensemble impress in three French string quartet masterpieces

Author: 
Geoffrey Norris

Debussy; Dutilleux; Ravel String Quartets

  • String Quartet
  • Ainsi la Nuit...
  • String Quartet

Admirers of the Arcanto Quartet will lap this disc up, and it deserves to be a spur to anybody who has not yet been alerted to this ensemble’s expertise, panache and interpretative perception. Previous discs of Brahms and Bartók have shown how the players, while possessing personalities of their own, coalesce and strike sparks off one another, instinctively sensing opportunities for crisp, collaborative counterpoint, for quick reactions, for rich, lyrical togetherness and for poetic eloquence as well. On this disc the landmark French quartets of Debussy and Ravel are combined with a later-20th-century classic by Henri Dutilleux, his Ainsi la nuit, completed in 1976. The playing throughout is masterly, and also thoroughly involving in terms of both technique and expressiveness.

The interpretation of the Debussy Quartet has sinew and propulsion, with that apt shading of dynamics and subtlety of nuance that have become hallmarks of the Arcanto’s distinctive and distinguished style. Delicacy and fluency are equally embraced in this commanding performance, as they are in the Ravel, where colouristic finesse is allied to clarity of articulation, sharp definition of thematic ideas and a warmth and energy in the overall characterisation of the music. With its broad outlook on the quartet repertoire, the Arcanto bring no less imagination to Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit, in which the short, epigrammatic miniatures that go to make up this seven-movement piece are played not only with complete control of the practical aspects but also with a gripping immediacy, personality and kaleidoscope of fascinating detail.

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