When one considers the string quartet, one tends to think of the great Germanic composers of this genre, with French counterparts often being forgotten. This collection, however, brings together a series of French string quartets which are extraordinary in their own right. Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor Op.10 of 1893 is demonstrative of the composer’s exposure to Javanese music at the Exposition Universelle of three years earlier, and also shows the Russian influence of Borodin, which can be heard in the slow movement. When Ravel composed his own String Quartet in 1902–3, which he dedicated to Gabriel Fauré, similarities were found between this and Debussy’s: these include the four-movement structure of both and the second movement Scherzos’ definite hints of exoticism. However, thanks to his beautiful melodies for both the cello and the violin, Ravel managed to create a turning point in his career with this innovative composition.
Dutilleux’s quartet is written in an entirely different style, based neither on harmony nor counterpoint, as with Debussy and Ravel respectively, but through the notion of a pivot note, with each movement built up around a single tone. Ainsi la nuit offers a certain eclecticism, with the composer contrasting the influences of Gregorian chant, the night sky and the sounds of nature to create a visionary piece.
The critically acclaimed Juillard Quartet, established in 1946 by founders Robert Mann and William Schuman, is one of the most recorded string quartets of all time. The ensemble has led an active life of international tours and has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls.
New booklet note by French music expert Robert Orledge.
“Technically, the playing is impeccable, with perfectly matched tone and texture in all three works.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.