ALBUM TITLE: Debussy • Ravel
WORKS: String Quartet, Op. 10; String Quartet
PERFORMER: Eroica Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: RES 10107
This recording has a lot going for it. The Eroica Quartet clearly know these works well, and its leader, Peter Hanson, produces a sweet, clean tone that helps bring out the lyrical potential in much of this music. Mercifully, there are no inserted rubatos and no extravagant desire to ‘interpret’ the notes – Ravel preferred his music just to be well played. There’s plenty of energy, too, in the finales, with a ‘bite’ just the right side of roughness. And the opening of the Debussy obeys his instruction ‘très décidé’, often ignored these days.
So it’s sad to have to withhold the highest ranking of five stars, owing to occasional disobediences elsewhere, most notably over a couple of tempos. Another common error, committed here, is to treat Debussy’s third movement as an invertebrate Adagio rather than the required Andantino. In the first movement of the Ravel, the composer asks for the second theme to be played ‘A tempo’ (found in all sources), and relaxing the speed does the movement no favours. There are also one or two other blemishes: some doubtful violin tuning in the high register near the start of the recapitulation in this movement, and the viola underplays the important forte/mezzo-forte contrast at the start of the Debussy Scherzo.