At first glance, it may seem unusual to pair string quartets of Brahms and Verdi on an album. The two composers are, on the surface, as fundamentally different as they could possibly be. On the one hand, the German Brahms excelled at writing purely instrumental music -- chamber music in particular -- though he was an immensely strict self-critic and only a fraction of his quartet writing was ever to be seen. A continent away, the Italian Verdi cared nothing for instrumental music for much of his career, cementing his place in music history as an opera composer instead. Yet in 1873, both composers turned to the string quartet. For Verdi, it was his first and only foray into the medium and his contribution is regrettably neglected. The influence of the Haydn and Beethoven quartets is as clear in Verdi's writing as it is in Brahms'. Both quartets incorporate intense emotions (though Brahms' are more veiled) and contrasting sections of intense delicacy and fervor. Tying these two works together is the exemplary performance of the Artemis Quartett. The well-practiced ensemble brings a sense of vital energy and passion to the two scores without overdoing the emotional content. The sound is vibrant and robust with an exceptionally strong presence from the quartet's inner voices. Like mentors in the Emerson Quartet, the two violins in the Artemis Quartett alternate position; both demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and intense, focused playing. Offering both a technically polished and musically satisfying performance, this Ars Musici disc is unreservedly recommended.
Artemis Quartett Plays Brahms & Verdi Review
by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2|
|String Quartet in E minor|