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COMPOSERS: Verdi/Puccini
WORKS: String Quartet in E minor; Luisa Miller (excerpts) (arr. Muzio); Crisantemi
PERFORMER: Hagen Quartet
This imaginative programme of music for string quartet features composers who are better known for their operas. Emanuele Muzio (1821-90) wrote four operas, but his chief claims to fame were as an arranger and conductor, and as the only pupil of Verdi. He produced the vocal scores of many of the master’s operas, and made these attractive arrangements from Luisa Miller (1849) in an age when such transcriptions could bring operatic music to a wider public. And the intimate scale works well, with the violins generally taking the melodic line, the viola and cello accompanying.


Verdi’s Quartet is contemporary with Aida, with which it shares some material; However, this is idiomatic chamber music, an original and imaginative work by a master composer. The Hagen Quartet finds just the right approach, with well-judged tempi and carefully balanced textures. Verdi said that the music relied upon ‘everything emerging clearly and precisely’, and it certainly does here.


Puccini wrote Crisantemi (‘Chrysanthemums’, 1890) as an elegy for a friend. It has that same delicate sadness he often created in operatic scenes; in fact he went on to use die material in Manon Lescaut. Again the Hagen Quartet plays with sensitivity, serving die music with distinction. Terry Barfoot