An outstanding collection of Italian quartet repertoire
This well-chosen programme offsets arguably the three finest quartet works of the Italian Romantic tradition (all, to varying degrees, influenced by Wagner) with one of Boccherini’s most enchanting chamber pieces. The polished technical address and meticulous internal balance of the Cremona Quartet are testimony to its coaching by members of the Italian and Alban Berg quartets. However, the players’ espressivo lyricism, exultant cantabile and natural spontaneity have more in common with the Gabrieli Quartet’s classic recordings of the 1970s. Most notably in the Respighi Quartet, the Cremona players never cease ‘singing’, inflecting phrases with a keen flexibility and affectionate warmth that become a natural part of the music’s emotional fabric. In a work notorious for its lack of obvious structural coherence, the Cremona Quartet creates a compelling expressive narrative that dissolves in an instant any concerns as to where the music is going.
The Cremonese prove equally compelling not only in the haunting chromaticisms of Puccini’s Crisantemi but also in Verdi’s elusive Quartet, often misguidedly played as a neo-Classical one-off and which here emerges as a Romantic blockbuster. How wonderful, also, to hear Boccherini’s music played with such affectionate poise, enchantment and tonal richness, enhanced by the beguilingly smooth sound picture. An outstanding release.