Cherubini: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Cherubini
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 5
PERFORMER: Hausmusik London
CATALOGUE NO: 999 464-2
When Luigi Cherubini retired from the opera house and devoted much of his energy to writing chamber music, many of his French contemporaries viewed this development as an unhappy symptom of ‘the paralysis of his creative imagination’. Later generations have fortunately disputed this assertion, accepting Cherubini’s contributions to the quartet medium as being highly individual for throwing into the stylistic melting pot a whole host of influences ranging from Viennese Classicism and Italian bravura to French sensibility.

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I have not heard Hausmusik’s first volume in this complete Cherubini cycle, but these performances, recorded in rather ungenerous sound, strike me as being well-attuned to the individualities of the composer’s style. Performing on period instruments and avoiding excessive use of vibrato ensures that the textures remain transparent and that there is sufficient range of colour – an essential component particularly in the Fifth Quartet with its unexpected changes of harmony and extraordinarily original slow movement. Hausmusik’s decision to divide responsibilities for the first violin part between Pavlo Beznosiuk (Quartet No. 2) and Monica Huggett (No. 5) should be applauded from the point of view of democracy, though there are passages in both works which require a more soloistic outlook from both players. Erik Levi