Arianna String Quartet

Schubert, Mendelssohn, Ravel: String Quartets

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The Arianna String Quartet is, relatively speaking, a rather young ensemble. Formed in 1992, it has had several changes in personnel for better or worse. What this means for listeners is that many of their CDs sound quite different because of the changes in musicians. Even this album of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Ravel quartets does not have the same players for each composition; the Schubert and Mendelssohn feature previous second violinist Rebecca Rhee. Only the Ravel uses the same players seen in the picture. The overall youth of the ensemble can be seen as both a strength and detriment. All of the performances on this album are exceptionally energetic. The Finale of the Mendelssohn D major Quartet, for instance, is successfully performed with lightning speed and precision. For Ravel, speed and exuberance alone are not sufficient for a truly magnificent performance. Arianna lacks some of the maturity and seasoned introspection that more established ensembles bring to this work. Its technical acumen is also mixed; there are times when it seems to be a well-oiled playing machine, tossing off difficult passages with ease. However, balance is sometimes an issue with the first violin often dominating the rest of the ensemble. The first violin is also guilty of the majority of intonation problems, often hitting the top notes of phrases significantly sharp.

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