In The South

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wolf; Puccini; Verdi; Turina; Piazzolla; Paganini
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: In The South
WORKS: Wolf: Italien Serenade; Puccini: Chrysanthemums; Verdi: String Quartet; Turina: The Toreador’s Prayer; Piazzolla: Four, for Tango; Paganini: (arr. Cassidy): 24 Caprices, Op. 1 – Nos 6 & 24
PERFORMER: Brodsky Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN10761

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This is an enjoyable disc of off-the-beaten-track music for string quartet, though the title In the South is only vaguely appropriate. The Brodsky Quartet clearly relish the chance to do something less heavyweight than their usual repertoire; they begin with a sprightly account of Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade, composed in 1887 and the breeziest piece in their programme. Puccini’s only performed piece of chamber music, Chrysanthemums of 1890, gets the full post-Wagnerian treatment, while Verdi is represented by his only String Quartet, from 1873, a piece that might feature on the most demanding of quizzes; it’s good fun, and the second movement is more than just that, while the last is as dazzling a fugue as the one that concludes his opera Falstaff

For me the most fascinating work is Joaquín Turina’s The Toreador’s Prayer. (Fittingly, in this predominantly Italian-themed programme Turina, though Spanish in nationality, was son of a painter of Italian descent.) Originally composed in 1925 for lute quartet, it does everything you wouldn’t expect a string quartet to do, with its shimmering colours and declamation – all the ingredients of rather successful programme music. Piazzolla’s Four, for Tango sounds just like Piazzolla always does to me; while Paganini has two of his Caprices arranged by the violist of the Brodsky Quartet, Paul Cassidy. The second Caprice is Paganini’s most famous piece, which has inspired more variations than almost any other melody.

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Michael Tanner