The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Dante Quartet
Composer: Fauré, Franck

César Franck and Gabriel Fauré composed only one string quartet apiece. Both works were written in the composers’ maturity – Fauré’s in his late 70s, Franck’s a year before his death at 67. It’s a pleasing pairing for the Dante Quartet to have chosen for its first disc with Hyperion, and the players perform the works with lucid intelligence and subtlety of interpretation.

In the Fauré, Judith Busbridge’s expressive viola stands out, its opening question recurring like a leitmotif through the first movement. The instrument’s mournful timbre, peculiarly suited to the years following World War I, sets a mood that unifies the three-movement work. The Dante, founded in 1995 at Prussia Cove, really brings the piece to life, highlighting its moments of emotional intensity and providing a rich and varied palette of string textures for its ebbs and flows of expression. Cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith, who joined the Dante three years ago after 40 years with The Lindsays, increases the intensity in the central Andante as he climbs to the heights of his instrument.

Franck’s quartet has an altogether more strident opening – a blaze of D major, inspiringly sustained by violinist Krysia Osostowicz, over rich chords. The meandering solo viola line that interrupts the first movement, mingling fugally with violin, is reminiscent of late Beethoven, while the Scherzo scurries with Mendelssohnian lightness. There’s more eloquent viola playing in the Larghetto and only in the last movement’s fiery tremolos is the ensemble occasionally slightly skew.

The sonorous recording is of excellent quality, not over-resonant, and the details of all four parts are clearly audible.