WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 9; String Quartet No. 2 in E, Op. 10
PERFORMER: Academica Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 29 ADD (distr. Rare Records)Reissue
Of the dozen or so extant chamber works by Max Bruch, two are string quartets, written at the age of 18 and 22. The influences of Mendelssohn and Schumann are strongly evident, for Bruch never chose the path of New Music taken by Wagner and his adherents; but these youthful works remain none the worse for that. As one expects with this Classical-Romantic composer, both pieces are tuneful and well crafted. The First Quartet is full of richly sonorous melodies in the opening two movements and spirited rhythms in the Scherzo and finale; the Second contains almost orchestral effects in the disposition of the four instruments and their individual textures. There is a wealth of elaboration in the slow movement and some Schubertian touches in the Scherzo with its two trios.
The Romanian Academica Quartet is particularly good in Op. 9, creating a mood of pathos in the impassioned opening Allegro and excellent clarity in the polyphonic development. Neither of the first movement repeats is observed, and Bruch’s dynamics and tempi are sometimes ignored (the first trio and finale of Op. 10 are too slow). Nevertheless, as part of what appears to be something of a Bruch revival (the complete chamber music is to be recorded, and on Radio 3 he will soon be Composer of the Week for the third time in five years), this reissue of a ‘first world recording’ is welcome. Christopher Fifield