Dutilleux: String Quartet ‘Ainsi la nuit’; R Merlin: Night Bridge; Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht
Erato 9029664190 64:33 mins
The Ebène Quartet’s highly imaginative programme of nocturnal landscapes takes its title from Thelonius Monk’s ‘’Round Midnight’. But before that famous jazz standard makes a shadowy appearance on this recording, there is Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit, a piece influenced as much by Van Gogh’s starry night-time paintings as by Proust’s evocations of the blurred borderlines between sleep and wakefulness. Belonging to the small handful of the 20th century’s modernist string quartet masterpieces, it is played here with breathtaking brilliance.
To form a transition between the Dutilleux and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht the Ebène’s cellist, Raphaël Merlin, has composed a sextet that makes oblique reference to Cole Porter, Victor Young, Thelonius Monk and even the sunrise from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé, while also invoking the structure and style of Ainsi la nuit. The whole thing is a dazzling display – more fitting, perhaps, as a postlude to the Dutilleux than as a prelude to the Schoenberg. But the performance of Verklärte Nacht is worth waiting for, its extraordinary attention to detail and clarity never achieved at the expense of tenderness and warmth.