Franck zaide

The Strad Issue: December 2017
Description: French-perfumed flair all round from young Gallic quartet
Musicians: Quatuor Zaïde, Karine Deshayes (mezzo-soprano), Jonas Vitaud (piano)
Works: FRANCK String Quartet in D major; CHAUSSON Chanson perpétuelle op.37
Catalogue Number: NOMAD MUSIC NMM044

This is the first time the young French Quatuor Zaïde has taken its always-championed-on-the-concert-platform French repertoire into the recording studio, and the result is an absolute delight. It’s also unmistakably French, and while this might sound like a redundant point, the Franck’s opening bars actually have enough of a Germanic flavour to make them prime candidates for solid, Death and the Maiden-esque severity under some fingers, meaning that the forward-gliding rise and fall of the Zaïde’s expansive, singing lines is a deeply pleasurable thing.

More pleasures await in the Franck’s scherzo, its outer sections in particular coming off as swirling, gossamer-weighted dances of the Aurae; also the gently austere Larghetto that sounds as if from a dusky haze, with just the odd ray of light puncturing it.

Contrasting textures and weights are in fact everywhere across the disc, continuing with Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle. Here, the recording (already an enjoyably spacious affair) positions fellow French artists – pianist Jonas Vitaud and mezzo Karine Deshayes – slightly out in front. However, it’s clear that even without this extra help Deshayes’s beautifully warm, light voice would have had all the space it needed, as the quartet is a selflessly sympathetic accompanist, content for its string countermelodies to waft around the vocal lines as no more than a faint, beguiling perfume. Emotional investment, freshness and indeed Frenchness – all in all, it’s a beautiful package.