The Chiaroscuro Quartet … what can one say?

The Chiaroscuro Quartet have a second CD out now, of the Beethoven op. 95 “Serioso”, Mozart’s E flat K. 428 quartet, and Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue K. 546. The performances —  but perhaps especially of the Beethoven — all strike me as being as wonderful as those on their debut disk. The quartet perform “on period instruments, informed by an historical approach” which means, for a start, they play on gut strings, with minimal vibrato and tuned to A430. But don’t take against that! As Alina Ibragimova, the leader, has said, the quartet’s approach is “more about creating a rich sound world rather than being historically correct.” True, it takes a few minutes to get accustomed to the timbre; yet it makes for a freshness and clarity which then makes their playing utterly compelling.

In particular, I find their performance of the Schubert “Rosamunde” Quartet D.840 on their first CD intensely moving and just astonishing for a quartet so young (or is it perhaps moving because they are young and will take the risks?). There are some utterly wonderful recordings of the Schubert out there, including — pre-eminently, I would earlier have said — one by the Lindsays (recorded in 1987), which is almost matched by the Belcea (2002), and closely followed perhaps the Takács (2006). But the Chiaroscuro’s performance is just magical, haunting, intense and intimate. I’m not quite lost for words, but really the message has to be simply “Listen!”.

Readers near Cambridge might like to know that the quartet are playing here on August 2nd.

Added And for news about a soon-to-be-released recording from another great quartet, see here.


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