Saint-Saëns: String Quartet No. 1 in E minor; String Quartet No. 2 in G

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
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.

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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