Ravel & Debussy: String Quartets

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Ravel
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10; Ravel: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G; String Quartet in F
PERFORMER: Dante Quartet; Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)

While Ravel always took an interest in older forms, it is surprising that Debussy composed his string quartet with no poetic or visual allusion. Although he turned to abstract forms in his final works, the String Quartet was written at a time when poetry and painting were overt influences upon his music. 
The Dante Quartet give a full-blooded performance, with no false delicacy. At the opening of the scherzo, it momentarily seems that they have turned Debussy’s advice to pianists on its head and are playing as if they have hammers, but this is immediately tempered with an exquisite reining-back. Similarly, the transition to the central section of the scherzo in Ravel’s Quartet fades to a whisper, as preparation for the sublime dream-world ahead.
Sitting rather uncomfortably between the two quartets, Ravel’s Sonata in G finds violinist Krysia Osostowicz ably partnered by Simon Crawford-Phillips. It is a fine performance, though the final Perpetuum mobile does not quite whip up the expected head of steam. The same certainly could not be said of the end of Ravel’s Quartet, where the Dante’s push to the final, thrilling flourish. Christopher Dingle