Fine Arts Quartet

Fritz Kreisler, Efrem Zimbalist: String Quartets; Ysaÿe: Harmonies du soir

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This release by the Fine Arts Quartet can certainly claim to have revived obscure repertory: the String Quartet in E minor of Efrem Zimbalist (the father of the staple of late-night movie fare) and Ysaÿe's Harmonies du Soir, Op. 31, for the unusual combination of string quartet and orchestra, are claimed to be world-premiere recordings. Fritz Kreisler's String Quartet in A minor is not quite that rare; there are a few recordings pairing it with quartets by Korngold or Richard Strauss. It may belong with those works more than with the ones here, for it is a full-fledged late Romantic work, bathed in murky chromatic harmonies and a heated atmosphere that brings to mind a German 1920s silent film soundtrack. As such it's quite accomplished, which is a bit surprising in view of Kreisler's spotty education. The Zimbalist is a more conventional work, but its slow movement is an exceptional piece of melodic writing. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Ysaÿe piece, a representation of a sunset. It does not treat the string quartet in the Baroque concertino manner but uses it in various shades that together constitute a layer distinct from the orchestra but intricately subdivided. It's a unique work. Hats off to the Fine Arts Quartet for a daring program that delivers some real finds.

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