Grieg: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27; String Quartet in F

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27; String Quartet in F
PERFORMER: Auryn Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 999 729-2
Grieg’s only completed String Quartet is among his most atypical works. Bold, original, highly thought out and deliberately uningratiating, it remains a tantalising hint of what a different composer Grieg might have turned out to be if he hadn’t fallen victim, as some might see it, to the corrupting influence of his own popularity. This was something he himself understood, and one of the reasons the Quartet cost him such untold effort to produce: ‘This was a result of the fact that I had stagnated – and that, conversely, is to be traced back in part to the numerous commissioned works (Peer Gynt, Sigurd Jorsalfar and other unpleasant things), and in part to the too-strong satisfaction of popular taste.’ The Auryn Quartet, new to me, brings to the work all the seriousness, concentration and characterisation it needs without its ever becoming turgid. The lyricism is perhaps a little under-played, but the combination of tonal blend and individual sonority is achieved with exemplary judgement. Tempi are uniformly natural and convincing, and the sense of large-scale drama, particularly in the first movement, is more than adequate, yet a little too careful for my own taste. Its account of the unfinished F major Quartet is equally commendable. Jeremy Siepmann

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