String Quartet in G minor Dutilleux
Ainsi la nuit Ravel
String Quartet in F
(Corina Belcea and Laura Samuel - violins, Krzysztof Chorzelski viola, Alasdair Tait cello)
CD No: EMI Debut CDZ 5 74020 2 Duration: Reviewed: June 2001
Belcea Quartet - Debussy, Dutilleux & Ravel
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This is a notable addition to EMIs excellent Debut series. The Belcea Quartet impress immediately with a very persuasive account of Debussys only quartet, music betraying external influences that is feeling its way to Debussys singular soundworld (Prelude a lapres-midi dun faune was but a year away).
Actually, its quite a journey from this string quartet to faune, for the Belcea vividly bring out Debussys kinship with Tchaikovksy and, especially, Borodin. Debussys Quartet is not a work that Ive previously found too much in; it says something then for the Belceas insights that it has raised the works profile. The Belceas is real chamber music playing a group that listens to each other, has mutual respect, and conveys a wholesome approach that doesnt inhibit individual response. The Belcea also make a lovely sound, one that is warm, variegated, subtle and instinctively right for the music being played; in the Debussy and generally the foursome are masters of fulsome attack, rhythmic brio, songful lines and searching expression, all rendered with emotion, sensitivity and musical focus.
Scrupulous sound-blending and dynamic contrast also play a considerable part in defining the Belceas profile; ideal characteristics for Henri Dutilleuxs quartet completed in 1976 and lasting eighteen minutes or so. Its twelve sections might lead one to an expectation of structural fragmentation, yet for all Dutilleuxs concern with gesture, colour, atmosphere and aphoristic comment he is working to a larger form, one fully appreciated by the Belcea Quartet who lead the listener through Dutilleuxs often-exquisite nocturnal exploration to a real sense of culmination.
Ravels first movement is sweetly lyrical, but not cloying; I do though find it a tad restless, verging on the episodic, with some middle- and lower-frequency details too prominent. The music though is alive with feeling. The pizzicato-dominated scherzo goes at quite lick, but with a real snap and buoyancy; the trio enters a half-lit world very effectively. The intimacy that informs Debussys slow movement similarly inhabits Ravels both movements report the Belceas capacity for depth of utterance.
The recording is superb in its presence, perspective, tonal warmth, lucid detail and natural balance.