String Quartets by Opera Composers

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COMPOSERS: Puccini,Respighi,Verdi and Humperdinck,Wagner
LABELS: MDG
ALBUM TITLE: String Quartets by Opera Composers
PERFORMER: Leipzig Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 307 1495-2

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The title of this disc should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it is an interesting collection of curiosities for which no title I can think of would be wholly appropriate. The neglected piece of real interest here is Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor, which he wrote in 1870 when he unexpectedly had some time on his hands. Each of its four movements has great charm, and it ends with a fugue, as his opera‑writing career also did. It is played with exemplary lucidity and feeling by the Leipzig Quartet, almost certainly the finest contemporary chamber group, and immaculately recorded by MDG. Respighi’s setting of Shelley’s sickly ‘The Sunset’, in Italian, is sung beautifully but with cloudy diction by Ruth Ziesak. A rarity, this is well worth the occasional airing. I wish I could say the same of Humperdinck’s elementary String Quartet in C major. Puccini’s heavily perfumed Crisantemi is a Wagner-influenced early piece, and Wagner himself is present, just, in the form of a fragment. Michael Tanner