Frenchman Joseph-Guy Ropartz was one of the most prolific and significant composers of chamber music in Europe in the early twentieth century, although one wouldn't be able to gauge that from the extent to which this music has been recorded. Into the gap steps the French label Timpani, which is in the process of recording all of Ropartz's six quartets with the excellent, Nancy-based Quatuor Stanislas. Joseph Guy-Ropartz: Quatours No. 2 & 3 is the first offering in this series and covers two of the key quartets from Ropartz's middle period; Quatuor No. 2 dates from 1911-1912 and Quatuor No. 3 from 1924-1925.
The Quatuor No. 2 is placed second on the disc and, on the surface, still bears some vestiges of commonality with the style of Vincent d'Indy and César Franck but is far more provocative and advanced in its harmonic language than either composer. Quatuor No. 3 was written for amateur chamber groups and is characterized by simplicity and directness, shot through with some degree of infusion with the harmonic practice of Debussy and Ravel. If you are fond of Ravel's String Quartet in F major, you will also like Ropartz's Quatuor No. 3. It has a stunningly beautiful slow movement marked Lento, and both of these quartets are formally rather unusual in that the slow movement is presented third, rather than second, in the scheme. The playing by the Quatuor Stanislas is superb, excepting a brief bit of wiriness in the first violin during the "Très lent" movement of the Quatuor No. 2. Listeners who fancy early twentieth century will be intrigued by the menacing, intense "War March" that is the "Assez vif" movement of the Quatuor No. 2; perhaps it was a premonition of the devastating effect of the World War I to follow. Joseph Guy-Ropartz: Quatours No. 2 & 3 not only repairs a major hole in the recorded chamber repertory, but it helps transmit a bit more of the truth about Ropartz's music itself; to refer to him as a "post-Romantic" who was never able to let go of nineteenth century traditions is simplifying the matter far too much. Timpani's recording is excellent; full-bodied, responsive, and clear.