Brahms: String Quartet No. 3, Op. 67; Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4
Led by the agile violinist, Guillaume Sutre, the Quatuor Ysaÿe is an ardent, highly trained ensemble with a slightly febrile edge to its style that some listeners may feel overrides the more mellow moments of Brahms’s least stressful String Quartet. They certainly drive the bucolic opening movement hard, while the long melody of the Andante has more intensity than repose. And though the highly individual tone of violist Miguel da Silva leads the ear hauntingly through the Agitato third movement, something of its sadness is missed. The genial finale comes off best with it its naughtily foreshortened theme continually catching out the listener in its ensuing variations.
All the same, the augmented Ysaÿe Quartet sound more in their element in the expansive paragraphs and ecstatic climaxes of Verklärte Nacht, the youthful Schoenberg’s string sextet tone poem after a fin de siècle lyric by Richard Dehmel about a woman forgiven by a man for bearing another’s child that modern feminists would no longer consider politically correct. Here the post-Wagnerian ebb and flow of phrasing and the rich interplay of thematic relationships sound entirely spontaneous and convincing.
The recordings, made in the Abbey of L’Epau near Le Mans, are fairly closely miked, so that one occasionally hears the odd sniff or click of bow, but every detail of texture, too. The lavish CD packaging is in booklet format together with extensive notes by the French music historian Bernard Fournier, in which the structures of the two works are anatomised in unbelievably pedantic detail.