Debussy; Dutilleux; Ravel String Quartets

A fine debut on record by the Wigmore Hall’s new quartet in residence – if they allow a little more freedom into their approach they could be outstanding

Author: 
DuncanDruce

DEBUSSY; DUTILLEUX; RAVEL String Quartets

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

Though formed as long ago as 1994, when the members were students of the Royal College of Music, the Belcea are still a young group. This Debut CD confirms the impression I’d formed from broadcasts (I’ve not yet heard them live) of a highly talented, exceptionally well-integrated ensemble. Their excellent balance is highlighted by crystal-clear recording. The opening of the Debussy, brisk and forceful yet with plenty of variety and meticulous in observing the composer’s directions, immediately inspires confidence. After a while, though, I started to wonder whether the playing was a bit too careful and controlled; the Vertavo Quartet, not quite as slick and with more soft-edged recorded sound, give a much more spontaneous effect, with delightful and very idiomatic touches of rubato. Similarly in the Ravel, the Belcea performance brings out all the subtleties of texture and timbre, the fascinating cross-rhythms, the sweetly nostalgic emotional tone. Yet in the slow movement they can’t match the rapt quality of the Alban Berg Quartet (newly restored as an EMI Great Recording of the Century), who manage to achieve a more intense sense of continuity at a tempo that’s considerably slower.
Dutilleux’s …Ainsi la nuit…, studied with the composer, shows the same care over balance, tuning and tonal quality, and captures the different phases of this evocative journey in an entirely persuasive way. An auspicious first recording then: when they succeed in giving a touch more freedom and individuality to their performances, the Belcea will be outstanding.'

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