LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in E minor; String Quartet No. 2 in G
PERFORMER: Medici Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6484-2
Neglect is a strange state for a musical work. It is often confused with being lost or forgotten, but this is a far more tortuous fate. Neglect is a form of artistic purgatory in which the existence of a work is acknowledged, but the music nevertheless remains in a publisher’s cellar gathering dust for years, decades or even centuries awaiting the verdict of posterity: revival or total oblivion. In the meantime, catalogues list the hapless work, and writers refer to it knowingly while never having heard a single note, but almost no one plays the music. By the time the work is performed, its perceived sins have been not just absolved, but forgotten.
Such has been the case (in Britain at least) of the two string quartets respectively composed late and even later in his long life by Saint-Saëns. Performances have occurred only once every three or four blue moons, presumably because of assumptions that the works would be ‘lightweight’. These ardently committed accounts are a delight, revealing little angst but no lack of depth. The Medici’s advocacy has set a benchmark which should go a long way towards these works finding a small corner in string quartet heaven. Christopher Dingle