Debussy • Fauré • Caplet

COMPOSERS: Caplet,Debussy,Faure
LABELS: MDG
ALBUM TITLE: Debussy • Fauré • Caplet
WORKS: Debussy: String Quartet; Fauré: String Quartet; Caplet: Conte Fantastique
PERFORMER: Leipzig Quartet; Marie-Pierre Langlamet (harp)
CATALOGUE NO: 307 1430-2

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The Quartets of Debussy and Ravel appear on disc together so often that one might assume that they form a kind of diptych. There is, indeed, much to be learnt from the pairing, though it usually highlights the differences rather than any symbiotic points of contact. The Leipzig Quartet therefore deserve praise for avoiding such predictable pairing. Fauré’s Quartet and Caplet’s chilling and thrilling Conte fantastique are far more intriguing and revealing bedfellows for Debussy, and both deserve to be far better known. Fortunately, the Leipzigers match their thoughtfulness with playing of beauty, vibrant colours and charm. The Debussy is elegant, but forthright, avoiding the trap of dreamy, hazy impressionism. The third movement is suitably languid while being a true Andantino, and the second movement is more bubbly than the harder-edged Quartetto Italiano’s classic account (Philips), though the Leipziger’s cannot match their nuance of timbre or subtlety of phrasing. Conte fantastique, Caplet’s evocation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, is the highlight here, with Langlamet at one with the Leipzigers in this rollercoaster of emotions. Tempos in the Fauré are generally brisk, especially in the final movement, where the Leipziger’s generally admirable urgency sounds decidedly impatient alongside the lithe textures of the Ad Libitum Quartet (Naxos). There is something to be said for not treating Fauré’s swansong with kid gloves, but it needs a little more space to breathe. Nonetheless, this imaginative disc deserves a warm welcome.  

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Christopher Dingle