Live From Marlboro Festival = DEBUSSY: String Quartet in G Minor; RAVEL: Introduction & Allegro; String Quartet in F – Marlboro Recording Soc.

by | Aug 8, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Live From Marlboro Music Festival = DEBUSSY: String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10; RAVEL: Introduction and Allegro for Harp and Ensemble; String Quartet in F Major
– Joseph Lin, violin/Judy Kang, violin/Richard O’Neill, viola/David Soyer, cello/Sivan Magen, harp/Joshua Smith, flute/Moran Katz, clarinet/Benjamin Beilman, violin/Luke Fleming, viola/Marie-Elizabeth Hecker, cello/Soovin Kim, violin/Jessica Lee, violin/Jonathan Vinocour, viola/Soo Bae, cello – 
Marlboro Recording Society 80003, 63:34 [Distr. By ArkivMusic.com] ****:
Artistic Directors Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida have initiated a series of previously unissued recordings from the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont that best represent the spirit of the place: “where master artists and new musical leaders live, learn, and explore great chamber music together in the foothills of southern Vermont, and where audiences make musical discoveries that last a lifetime.”
From a performance of 17 February 2002 from the Gardner Museum, Boston, we hear the 1893 G Minor String Quartet of Claude Debussy, conceived under the spell of Cesar Franck, but no less from the composer’s having heard Javanese gamelan music at an international exposition in Paris.  Among the ensemble members in this Marlboro collaboration appears the late David Soyer (1923-2010), one of the founding members of the Guarneri String Quartet, who established residence at my old alma mater, SUNY Binghamton. Mr. Soyer performed on a Gugliano cello from Naples, Italy, 1778 that well defines Debussy’s bass lines. The opening motto theme of the opening movement Anime et tres decide appears in all subsequent movements, clearly Debussy‘s nod to Cesar Franck‘s cyclic system. My piano literature teacher Jean Casadesus had a special place in his heart for the Andantino doucement expressif third movement., and it receives loving caresses from the ensemble from Marlboro. Harmonies in parallel motion, startling but deft dissonances, and sudden metric shifts notwithstanding, the last movement conveys a sensuality and feral energy which Bartok envied. Richard O’Neill’s plangent viola makes its own points in the course of this “invitation au voyage” among exotic flora and fauna in the Symbolist landscape. The last chord evinces affirming bravos from the Marlboro audience.
Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro (performed 18 July 2010 in Parsons Auditorium, Marlboro) was commissioned by the publisher Erard to show off their instrument’s natural color and resources. The exotic G-flat Major key contributes to the luster of this abbreviated concerto’s diaphanous  and other-worldly textures, with the support of flute, clarinet and bowed strings. Sivan Megan does much credit to the extensive harp part, while the accompanying sextet of voices–especially Luke Fleming’s swarthy viola–weave a sensuous ring of fire and incense around the priestess harp. Precision, control and dynamic subtlety mark Magen’s lovely cadenza, into which the flute infiltrates an aerial trill, and the other instruments add a palette of quicksilver droplets. Often used as a conductor’s competition piece, this chamber music performance sans conductor does much credit to all participants.
Ravel’s 1903 F Major String Quartet, dedicated to Gabriel Faure, gleaned only the enigmatic comment from the composer that “it responds to my desire for musical construction. . .however inadequately.” Beauty of musical line prevails over the German virtues of learned counterpoint, and the first movement flows with two themes of exotic harmony. The two themes transform as they proceed, so the garden blossoms never quite the same way twice. The Gardner Museum performance of 1 April 2007 glows with an unearthly mystical serenity in the last pages, Soovin Kim’s sweet violin luxuriant against the supporting body of strings. Pizzicato figures in the Aeolian mode open the Assez vif, with its Javanese three-versus-two influences striking our Western ears with whirling whispers–in E Minor and G-sharp Minor–of sensuous delights of which Gauguin drew pictures. The Tres lent movement indulges in parallel fifths and asks the players to use their fingerboards; when they all play in the treble clef, the effect removes gravity from the musical equation. Fiery tremolos open the most “symphonic” of the four movements, the Vif et agite songful last movement which often recalls motifs from the first movement. A flurried exoticism hastens through these glorious figures, brilliant but too all too brief. The picture on the jewel case’s interior says it all: “Caution: Musicians At Play.”
— Gary Lemco

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