Because the Classical string quartet was developed as a vehicle for four players engaged in lively repartee, monothematic fugal writing made an odd fit with the genre, since the regular cycling of the subject in all four parts prevents them from being truly independent. Yet there are numerous examples of fugues for string quartet, and this 2017 release by the Armida Quartett explores a variety of works, from Valentin Haussmann's modest Baroque fugues to Ludwig van Beethoven's monumental Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, the onetime finale of his String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op 130. Between these two pieces are the Sonata a Quattro No. 4 in D minor by Alessandro Scarlatti, three excerpts from Johann Sebastian Bach's Der Kunst der Fuge, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg's Sonata in C minor, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C minor, all displaying great contrapuntal invention and symmetry in the parts, though without giving the lines complete independence. While this conundrum has never been satisfactorily worked out, even by the geniuses included here, that doesn't prevent the Armida Quartett from delivering warm and energetic performances, and this album has an intellectual appeal that is balanced by the highly expressive playing.
Review by Blair Sanderson
|Sonata a quattro No. 4|
|The Art of Fugue BWV 1080|
|Sonata in C Minor|
|Adagio and Fugue in C Minor K. 546|