The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Three major chamber works by composers who were also violin virtuosos
Musicians: Fine Arts Quartet, Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe/Otis Klöber
Composer: Kreisler, Zimbalist, Ysaÿe

Fritz Kreisler’s salon pieces are enshrined in the violin repertoire, but his more serious works have been largely ignored. His String Quartet from 1919 has its parentage in French Impressionism (Kreisler had been a composition pupil of Delibes at the Paris Conservatoire). It is a skilfully crafted and beautiful four-movement score brought vividly to life by the Fine Arts Quartet which, through its liberal use of vibrato, enhances the warmth on which the music thrives.

Efrem Zimbalist, who led a colourful life as a virtuoso violinist after his arrival in the US, had originally studied composition under Liadov at the St Petersburg Conservatoire. For his String Quartet of 1932, he returned to his Russian roots to find inspiration for its attractive melodic material in the idiom of Borodin. The Fine Arts players deal admirably in particular with its fast and finger-knotting finale, a movement of sheer joy.

Eugène Ysaÿe was self-taught in composition, and his Harmonies du soir can be heard as a work in direct lineage from Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and is just as estimable. Here the Fine Arts players are joined in an impassioned reading by members of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe. The playing of the quartet is technically admirable throughout the disc, and the abundance of inner detail is greatly enhanced by an ideally balanced recording, which offers a most likeable quality of sound. This disc is a real discovery that I can recommend without reservation.