Thanks to his traditional upbringing, Saint-Saëns was a composer deeply rooted in the classical tradition, something particularly highlighted in his piano quartets. Rather than allowing himself to be caught up in new ideas taking hold in music, such as Debussy’s Impressionism, Saint-Saëns based his ideas on the great traditions of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. This is not to say, though, that he was merely ‘borrowing’: indeed, as the quartets featured on this disc exemplify perfectly, Saint-Saëns was a master at creating highly original music out anachronistic forms. Far more than mere pastiche, the music pays homage to the composer’s various sources of inspiration.
All aspects of timbre and style are explored in these two quartets, from the distinct flair of his light-hearted folky themes to the composer’s masterful approach to counterpoint writing. The sophisticated and demanding Quartet in E major is designated by the composer as an ‘exercise in style’, the second Andante movement almost concerto-like in its complexity. The Quartet in B flat major harks fleetingly back to Bach, as echoes of his chorales are heard in the second movement, concluding in a deceptively simple fugue-like motif.
The challenges posed by Saint-Saëns, whether through the astonishingly varied styles or his eclectic mixture of periods and influences, are brilliantly tackled by Quartetto Avos. Winners of the 2009 International Vittorio Gui Award in Florence, the quartet was formed in 2007, and they have since toured internationally. Praised for their ability to create ‘a perfectly blended sound […] with unusual ease’ (Da Archi), the listener is rewarded with a professional yet highly emotional interpretation, perfectly suited to Saint-Saëns’s traditional but creative music.
- Recorded in 2012.
- This new recording presents the two piano quartets, virtuoso works which deserve a firm place in the concert repertoire.
Camille Saint-Saëns was a highly prolific and eclectic composer, two adjectives which may bear a negative undertone, but not in the case of Saint-Saëns, a genius who absorbed all current musical styles and forged them in his own inimitable, unique language, extremely well-crafted, intelligent, charming, brilliant and with an astonishing gift for “a good tune”.
- Brilliant performances by the Italian Avos Quartet, who play with “perfectly blended sound with unusual ease” (the Italian magazine “Archi”).
- Booklet contains detailed notes on the works, as well as artist biographies.