String Quartets, Op.54:
No.1 in G
No.2 in C
No.3 in E
[Guillaume Sutre & Luc-Marie Aguera (violins); Miguel da Silva (viola) & François Salque (cello)]
Recorded in March 2003 at the Abbey of LEpau, near Le Mans, France
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: December 2003
CD No: YSAE RECORDS / AEON AECD 0313
The leader’s intake of breath at the beginning of the first work, and the ensemble’s unanimity of attack, signals a purposefulness that lasts throughout these imaginative Quartets; Haydn at his most urbane.
The immediate recording gives the listener the opportunity to be the ’fifth’ member, and one certainly appreciates the interplay and teamwork of this outstanding quartet, its members playing as one without losing individuality.
Tempos are consistently well judged. Fast movements have a natural momentum, with nothing forced. Despite the close sound, a hushed response is not compromised; the Allegretto of Op.54/1 being a fine example, the listener drawn-in to intimate musing. This Quartet’s finale is an object lesson in giving music its full shape at speed; Presto might warrant a faster tempo; however, the Ysaÿe find buoyancy rather than remorselessness.
The Ysaÿe is a vibrant group, yet this doesn’t preclude elegance or courtliness. The opening Vivace of the C major Quartet enjoys a patrician sense of poised unfolding. Quite a contrast, then, with the depth of feeling exuded by the succeeding (generously bowed) Adagio and with the playful Minuet that follows, attacca, and the three-part design of the finale – slow-fast-slow – which adds yet another dimension. That’s Haydn for you!
The more flamboyant and rich E major Quartet finds the Ysaÿe exploring the song and dance of this music in equal measure, but without harming the essential congeniality of the invention. The Ysaÿe Quartet is four musicians who talk to each other; they express the most-tender feelings in the (relatively long) Adagio, stamp the Minuet out with vitality and scamper through the finale with the most infectious bounce.
This CD, the first on the Ysaÿe Quartet’s own label, is a distinguished debut. These brilliant and thoughtful performances, tangibly recorded (the Abbey’s dormitory proving to be both spiritually and acoustically ideal), make one want more. A second Haydn CD would be wonderful. One gathers that Robert Schumann’s three Quartets are next … which is keenly anticipated.