The Leipziger String Quartet has become something of a looking-glass Emerson: both are known for superior techincal excellence; but while the Emerson is sometimes criticized for its vellity for velocity, the Leipziger has become known for its tepid tempi--until now.
Ever since I saw the Leipziger was to do the French School, I have been waiting for this disc in eager anticipation. Well!: I am not disappointed. I am a little surprized however, for its timings with these French masterworks are not only "in the ballpark," but in some instances, marginally brisk.
Withal, this is a great disc because of the line up: Debussy and Fauré's exquisite string Quartets, and Caplet's extraordinary Quintet for harp and string quartet. (The great French harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet sits in on this set.)
Debussy's eclectic string Quartet dates from the magical year of 1893. Critics have noted hints of Spanish, Russian, and Asiatic odors in its bouquet. Its form is comprised of a fusion of variation and cycle. (:25mins)
Caplet was a protégé of Debussy. The 1909 Conte Fantastique (that is, "Fanstastic Story") is a musical narrative of Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death." (:16mins)
(In the Fin de Siècle, Poe held the same influential position in literature as Wagner did in music. Baudelaire and Mallarmé translated Poe into French, and Baudelaire essayed on him as indeed he did on Wagner.
In fact, Debussy himself had between 1903-18 projected two major dramatic works for the stage based upon Poe's works: "The Devil in the Belfry" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." Unfortunately for humanity, Debussy was unable to finish these works, and the remains of the sketches appear not realizable at this time.)
Fauré's extremely refined Quartet was written almost literally at grave's edge in 1924, just weeks before he crossed the bar. Its visionary matter combined with its formal excellence make it one of the supreme expressions of Latinate civilization. (:23mins)