Grieg: String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27; String Quartet No. 2 in F

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27; String Quartet No. 2 in F
PERFORMER: Chilingirian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67117
Until recently the Grieg G minor Quartet was as regularly coupled with the Sibelius as the concerto was with Schumann, albeit hardly in such profusion! But in the last few years the present coupling has gained ground: indeed there are now some half-a-dozen versions. The G minor Quartet is one of Grieg’s most deeply-felt pieces and the Chilingirians have its measure. If it gave Grieg a lot of trouble (the first movement completely changed direction), the F major gave him even more. Two movements were completed (and the second is first-rate in every way) but in the sixteen years that elapsed between them and his death, he was never satisfied with the inpiration that came to him. The sketches for the remaining two were put into shape by Julius Röntgen after his death. Levon Chillingirian has taken great trouble over the score returning to Grieg’s original sketches – and turning to all the right authorities.

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The newcomer has formidable competition from the Oslo Quartet (Naxos), who offer only the first two movements together with a quartet by Grieg’s early biographer, the composer David Monrad Johansen, while the Raphael Quartet (Olympia) give us Röntgen’s conjectural completion. The Chillingirians, on the other hand, leave off where Grieg did. They are unfailingly alive and intelligent. My preferred version of the G minor remains the Finlandia disc coupled with the Sibelius (reviewed some months ago) but the Chilingirians have complete dedication and a freshness that is wholly persuasive in both scores. Robert Layton