St. Petersburg String Quartet

Debussy: String Quartet; Golliwog's Cakewalk; Ravel: String Quartet

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The Debussy and Ravel string quartets are two works of chamber music that would appear to be more inextricably linked than virtually any other two works by different composers. Debussy's quartet appeared only a few short years before Ravel's. The two works certainly share a great deal in common; both were the only contributions to the string quartet literature by their respective composers, both are youthful works, and both presaged some of the more mature compositional developments that were to come in both Debussy and Ravel. This Marquis album features performances given by the St. Petersburg String Quartet, a group who, not surprisingly, has focused a great deal of its discography on the Russian string quartet literature. What this album proves, however, is that the SPSQ need not confine itself to that particular genre. Most aspects of these readings are quite enjoyable. Sound quality is especially well-suited, a little bit fuzzy, and smoky, with individual instruments (particularly the stunningly beautiful viola playing) popping out of the texture at opportune moments. Dynamic gestures are sweeping and well-coordinated and the ensemble demonstrates an impressively broad selection of tone colors. Occasionally the quartet edges toward extreme rhythmic precision, a feature well-suited for Shostakovich or Prokofiev, but not so much for Debussy and Ravel, but they tend to fight this urge and generally maintain a sense of rhythmic fluidity.

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