Lekeu: String Quartet; Piano Quartet; Molto adagio

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WORKS: String Quartet; Piano Quartet; Molto adagio
PERFORMER: Spiegel Quartet; Jan Michiels (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 644 1266-2
The death of the 24-year-old Guillaume Lekeu from typhoid fever in 1894 robbed Belgian music of a potentially major leading light. Taught by Franck and d’Indy, Lekeu impressed Ysaÿe, who commissioned a violin sonata from him, and was highly regarded by French composers and musicians. Since he died so young, all of his music must count as ‘early’, although there are clear developments between the String Quartet of 1887 and the Piano Quartet composed in the year of his untimely death. The String Quartet, in six movements, is something of a homage to late Beethoven in both structure and, at times, musical language. Even so, this does not preclude Lekeu looking further afield, notably in the third-movement which begins with a re-imaging of Bach’s prelude style before heading off toward Impressionism. The Piano Quartet is a fascinating work full of storm and stress, though with perhaps a little too much of the latter. Nevertheless, it clearly shows a mind wrestling with the shackles of convention and ready to break free. The players are excellent in the String Quartet and are well served by the recording; the performance of the Piano Quartet is rougher edged with less clarity of sound. Jan Smaczny