WORKS: String Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Stanislas Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 488020-2
All three of these pieces are studies in the variety of texture available from a string quartet. Henri Dutilleux’s is the most accomplished and poetic, building from shadowy rustlings and lyrical fragments to an impressive whole: a nocturne, rooted in night music by Bartók and others. Raymond Depraz (b1915) attempts something similar. His invention is very fertile and the sense of improvisation, of one player introducing an idea that the others then seize and modify, is striking, but he cannot quite escape the impression of a zealous catalogue of all the things that four string players can do without actually damaging their instruments.
The risk of damage seems greater in George Crumb’s trilogy, which is for amplified string quartet, the players also being asked to shout and mutter and to hit percussion instruments. It is overtly a comment on the Vietnam War, and its violent expressionist gestures and quotations from Schubert and Saint-Saëns may have seemed brave, even radical at the time, but the shock value has faded and the musical substance now seems rather slight. The performances are very good, but those seeking the one major work here, the Dutilleux, have two fine bargain couplings to choose from, the Belcea on EMI and the Sine Nomine on Erato. Michael Oliver