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Haydn, Lalo & Milhaud Quartets

Debussy Quartet

Haydn String Quartet in A Op. 55 No.1
Milhaud String Quartet No. 4 Op. 46
Lalo String Quartet Op. 45

Wigmore Hall, Sunday 19 April 2009 - 11:30

For their first crossing of the English Channel and only concert in UK the Quatuor Debussy made a strong case for an invitation to return very soon.

They have an interesting repertoire, as shown on their website, with a Shostakovich intégrale, and quartets of Webern, Haas, Klein, Ullmann etc and, oddest of all, a transcription for string quartet of Mozart's Requiem.

Too many visiting groups play safe with standard repertoire instead of risking marvellous music from their own countries (e.g. the Grieg Piano Trio this Spring at Wigmore Hall).It is repertoire which largely determines what Musical Pointers decides to cover...

After a good account of Haydn (d. 1809, obligatory and rightly so in his special year) which took a few minutes to settle, and had several passages for the lower players of particular interest, the rest of their hour was devoted to French rarities; the Wigmore Hall coffeee concert audience is not easily daunted, and there was a large, very receptive crowd.

We learnt that Milhaud decided to compose one more quartet than did Beethoven *(whereas most other French composers of note managed but one each !). Christophe Collette told us the story of Nos 14 & 15, written so as to be played separately or simultaneously as an Octet, which I once saw the composer conduct it at the Royal College of Music...

The chosen one (No. 4, 1918) had sprightly outer movements book-ending a dark, tortured Funébre, and hearing it live (probably for the first time) has sent us back to the excellent intégrale box of them all [Quatuors Parisii & Manfred (Naive V 4891)].

Completely unknown to practically all of us here is the Lalo Quartet (1880) a very worthy contribution to the genre, with an especially winning Vivace movement which would be a real gift to a young exploratory-minded quartet wanting a memorable encore.

Peter Grahame Woolf