Debussy String Quartet in G Minor; Deux Danses; Premier Trio
This is a marvellously inventive collection. It has taken the Brodsky Quartet a long time to turn their attention to Debussy. Having done so, they have contrived to produce an entire disc centred around his single String Quartet. Violinist Daniel Rowland and cellist Jacqueline Thomas are joined by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet for a charmingly languid, if occasionally hard-edged account of the youthful Piano Trio. Another early work that sounds equally unlike the mature Debussy is his Rêverie, originally for piano, but heard here in an effective arrangement by the Brodsky’s viola player, Paul Cassidy.
There has been a tendency towards more red-blooded performances of Debussy’s String Quartet in recent years. This can be remarkably effective, as in the Ebène Quartet’s BBC Music Magazine Award-winning version (Virgin). The Brodsky Quartet partially fit that mould – they open firmly and attack the second movement’s pizzicatos with relish. Their playing is tempered, both in the Quartet and the Rêverie, by a quivering texture in more hushed moments, with mixed results. A little more drive at the end of the opening movement would be welcome.
The pick of this finely recorded disc is the arrangement for harp and string quintet of the Deux Danses (sacrée et profane), where the Brodskys are joined by Chris Laurence on double bass in supporting harpist Sioned Williams. In this version, there is a greater sense of the harp being first among equals, of intimate dialogue with the (other) strings.