Franck • Lalo

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COMPOSERS: Franck,Lalo
LABELS: Praga
ALBUM TITLE: Franck • Lalo
WORKS: String Quartet in D
PERFORMER: Kocian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: PRD 250 141

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Memo to all young string quartets trying to find a neglected area of repertoire: César Franck wrote an exceptional work in the genre. Among the last of his works, it is a more searching example of cyclic form than either the celebrated Violin Sonata or the Symphony. It is a substantial quartet, with a late-Beethovenian duration of about 45 minutes, and equivalent intensity of expression. Barely a handful of recordings of this wide-ranging work exist, and it is in desperate need of a decent modern account.

This new disc from the Kocian Quartet is enterprising, coupling the Franck with another work which deserves a wider hearing, Lalo’s E flat Quartet. Unfortunately, it cannot be recommended with any enthusiasm. All four members of the Kocian Quartet belong to the ‘fast, wide and persistent’ school of string vibrato, a trait which becomes wearing within the opening theme of the Franck. Add a lack of rhythmic drive (exemplified by the insipid conclusion to the Franck) and imagination, and the verdict does not look promising. The final nail in the coffin is a recording that was presumably made in a large bathroom.

The ‘modern’ competition is not exactly great, though, with the Prague City Quartet’s more impressive account (also Praga) marred by even more echo and boom and an inoffensive reading from the Gewandhaus Quartet (Berlin Classics). It is not rose-tinted glasses that make the 1933 Pro Arte Quartet’s recording the benchmark. Their modern rivals are simply deeply disappointing.

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Christopher Dingle