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20th Century String Quartets - Debussy, Ravel, Toldra, Zemlinsky / Cuarteto Casals

Audio Samples

>Debussy, Claude : Quartet for Strings in G minor, Op. 10
>Zemlinsky, Alexander v. : Quartet for Strings no 2, Op. 15
>Ravel, Maurice : Quartet for Strings in F major
>Toldrá, Eduardo : Vistes al mar, for string quartet (or string orchestra)
>Turina, Joaquin : La Oracion del torero, for lute quartet (or string quartet/string orchestra), Op. 34

Album Summary

>Debussy, Claude : Quartet for Strings in G minor, Op. 10
>Zemlinsky, Alexander v. : Quartet for Strings no 2, Op. 15
>Ravel, Maurice : Quartet for Strings in F major
>Toldrá, Eduardo : Vistes al mar, for string quartet (or string orchestra)
>Turina, Joaquin : La Oracion del torero, for lute quartet (or string quartet/string orchestra), Op. 34
Composers

Notes & Reviews:

This double album brings together two recordings from 2004 and 2006 in which the Cuarteto Casals opportunely demonstrated its virtuosity and the links between figures as different as Turina, Ravel, Debussy and Zemlinsky.

Fanfare
Debussy's Quartet has retained its vitality and freshness through uncounted performances and recordings. Cuarteto Casals was founded in Madrid in 1997 and has appeared throughout the Western world, maintaining its home as quartet-in-residence for several Spanish conservatories. The group is technically solid, with a soft first violin and a lovely pure cello; individual lines emerge subtly from a warm ensemble. It plays with convincing ardor and a freshness that matches Debussy to a tee...

To segue from Debusy to Zemlinsky is less wrenching than one might imagine. The Viennese composer is expanding formal and tonal boundaries, whereas the Frenchman was breaking the mold and starting anew, but they shared a genius for color that extended to their chamber music. While the Casals remained cool and fresh in Debussy, it rises to a white-hot intensity in Zemlinsky, bringing the Second Quartet close to the compositions of Alban Berg. Zemlinsky was leaning towards the dissolution of tonal harmony here, a break that he was never able to make. Nevertheless, his struggles in that direction lead to a power of expression in which the Casals ensemble revels. In addition, it floats exquisite pianissimos in the finale.

Zemlinsky's quartets continue to grow in stature as each new recording reveals another way of looking at his music. Among its best previous recordings, the Second Quartet has benefited from the icy analysis of the LaSalle, the iron will of the Artis, and the friendly warmth of the Schoenberg Quartet. That it blossoms under such variety of care suggests a fundamental quality that could not stay buried by Hitler's banishment. Zemlinsky has proven to be the most wide-ranging composer among those so suppressed; much of his chamber and symphonic music, his songs and his operas, have joined the standard repertoire in Europe, while America recycles only the most familiar music, becoming more and more of a cultural backwater. The emergence of Cuarteto Casals is yet another sign of the vitality of European culture.

...recorded sound is full and ripe, intimate yet never claustrophobic. Recording sessions took place in Girona - in Basque country, right on the French border - in the summer of 2004.

Fanfare
...Cuarteto Casals also trumps the competition in Oración del torero: namely, an out-of-print Britten Quartet performance on the defunct Collins Classics label. However, the Orpheus CO is convincingly pointed in its 1991 recording of the orchestral arrangement: part of a superb collection of short pieces that is well worth tracking down.

To sum up: at 53:12 (that is, minus the recitations), the new release is short measure for a CD but its rewards are ample. Certainly, it contains my favorite performance of the Ravel Quartet (at the moment!) while the Spanish works are scintillating and delightful. I intend to search out the Casals's recording of the Arriaga quartets as soon as possible. This issue is a great success.

BBC Music Magazine, October 2012
Well loved quartets superbly performed, and imaginatively coupled.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Estudio "L'Auditorium" de Anacrusi s.l., Jafre, Girona.



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Works Details

>Debussy, Claude : Quartet for Strings in G minor, Op. 10
  • Running Time: 23 min. 34 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1893

>Zemlinsky, Alexander v. : Quartet for Strings no 2, Op. 15
  • Running Time: 22 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1913-1915

>Ravel, Maurice : Quartet for Strings in F major
  • Running Time: 29 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1902-1903

>Eduardo Toldrá (1895 - 1962) : Vistes al mar, for string quartet (or string orchestra)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1921

>Joaquín Turina (Composer) (1882 - 1949) : La Oración del torero, for lute quartet (or string quartet/string orchestra), Op. 34
  • Running Time: 8 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1925