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Quart de Nuit

The Ruysdael Quartet (Deux-Elles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Quart de Nuit
Ravel: Quart de Nuit; String Quartet in F major; Dutilleux: String Quatrtet ‘Ainsi la nuit’; Debussy: Suite Bergamasque – Clair de lune
The Ruysdael Quartet
Deux-Elles DXL1185   51:20 mins

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The string quartets by Ravel and Dutilleux make a potent pairing. As Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit emerges from the ether, its seven movements feel like meditations by the composer on brief moments in the Ravel. Especially so in this live performance from the Ruysdael Quartet, captured in 2017 at the ZOOM! Chamber Music Festival (the title stems not from video conferencing software, but the Veluwezoom National Park in The Netherlands).

The resonance of the Grote Kerk in the village of Velp occasionally means that some details are a little hazier than on studio recordings, but the harsh light of the latter is not necessarily an advantage, especially in the Dutilleux. There is a wonderful sonic plasticity here in ‘Constellations’, the sixth movement, as the surging chords emerge from each other and the players swirl around like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The movements either side, ‘Litanies 2’ and ‘Nocturne 2’, are wonderfully numinous, their combinations of movement and stillness hanging in the air.

The Ruysdael are also impressive in the Ravel, though here greater clarity would be welcome in some of the busier textures, such as the brief bursts of energy that periodically adorn the first movement. In the second movement, if some of the filigree accompaniment lacks a little focus, the plucking bounces along cheerfully; the slow movement has exquisite calm, and the last movement explodes with ferocious energy.

Tony Kime’s arrangement of Debussy’s ‘Clair de lune’ is a genial encore, if not entirely convincing after the searching nocturnal explorations of Ainsi la nuit.

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Christopher Dingle