Debussy, Ravel: String Quartet in G minor; String Quartet in F

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Ravel
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: String Quartet in G minor; String Quartet in F
PERFORMER: Quartetto Italiano
CATALOGUE NO: 420 894-2 ADD Reissue (1966)
There are two recordings of the Debussy and Ravel quartets which should never be absent from the catalogue. The incisiveness and wonderfully rich, open tone of the Pro Arte Quartet’s pioneering accounts from 1933 are stunning. They have never been surpassed, but, for those who cannot stomach crackles, the Quartetto Italiano is its equal. The opening of Debussy’s quartet grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck, and yet this is playing of the utmost refinement which avoids histrionics. The scherzo is full of vim and vigour, while finding moments of smooth relaxation, and the slow movement exudes velveteen rapture. The Ravel is characterised by rhythmic vitality and an acute sense of colouration allied to a gloriously sweet tone which never cloys.

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The recording sounds excellent, magnificently blending warmth and clarity to ensure that none of the gossamer-like details are lost, while grittier episodes never become harsh. Christopher Dingle