Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Les Vendredis is a selection of 16 pieces for string quartet gathered and published by Mitrofan Petrovich Belaieff in 1899. The name comes from Belaieff's every second Friday musical salons where composers like Lyadov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Glazunov presented new works. I was rather surprised to find out how often these pieces have been recorded, though I guess at 75 or so minutes the set is all set to fill a CD. I listened to selections from the Quatuor Ravel set on Skarbo (2002), the Vertavo String Quartet on Simax Classics (2004), the Alcan Quartet on ATMA Classique (2005), and the Silzer Quartet on SWR Classic Archive (2014). It became clear from this immersion in late 19th century Russian salon music that the focus is on salon: this isn't usually challenging or searching music. It is occasionally a bit erudite - there's a prelude and fugue by Glazunov and a canon by Sokolov. At the same time, though, it's more middle-European and less folkloric than I would have expected. Charm is the keynote, and the Szymanowski Quartet brings the charm. Every recording has a different order of the pieces, but this recording seems to be in publication order. In any case, there's plenty of variety in mood and tempo, and it all makes for a very pleasant hour and a quarter. Recommended. The disc is due to drop on April 14, 2017.

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