The Signum Quartet’s enterprising schedule for Capriccio continues with this pairing of the Debussy and Ravel quartets, along with Arcadiana by Thomas Adès. This fourth and latest recording confirms the latter work’s significance in the quartet repertoire of the past quarter-century; and if the Signum are more robust in projecting its subtly contrasting moods than the Calder Quartet on an all-Adès disc (Signum Classics; see the quartet round-up in last month’s issue), this does not preclude an engaging continuity from emerging over the course of seven movements in which irony and pathos are held deftly in accord through to those teasingly insubstantial closing pages.
It is an insubstantiality that brings out a similar elusiveness in the French quartets on either side. Admittedly the Debussy slightly loses focus after a forthright opening movement, its scherzo just a little hesitant and the Andantino muted in its eloquence, though the finale drives home the piece’s cyclical evolution with no mean decisiveness. The Ravel, however, has a greater overall consistency – the initial Allegro shot through with wistful elegance and the scherzo yielding a pert nonchalance, before the slow movement brings an inward repose which more than usually carries over into the finale with its cumulative surge towards a hard-won resolve.
Clearly those primarily interested in the Adès should in the first instance acquire the Signum Classics disc, but this release is arguably the most provocative coupling yet for these warhorses of the quartet repertoire. Clear and immediate recording, along with detailed booklet-notes, round out the attractions of a most worthwhile collection.