‘Full-blooded quartet playing in the grand, classic manner: extrovert and eloquent’ is how the performances of the Escher String Quartet were described in a review of their recording of Mendelssohn’s first and fourth quartets in BBC Music Magazine. After completing the three-disc cycle of Mendelssohn quartets – and earning further accolades, including a nomination to the 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards – the quartet now returns with a programme which leaves plenty of opportunity for their special brand of playing.
Composed between 1873 (Tchaikovsky) and 1893 (Dvořák), the three quartets gathered on this disc form a catalogue of unforgettable tunes and of emotions ranging from nostalgia to the most infectious joy. Each of the three composers wrote more than one quartet – Dvořák’s list of works includes as many 14! – but the ones recorded here are by far their best-loved. A contributing fact is surely that they all three include slow movements that tug at every listener’s heartstrings. Especially Tchaikovsky’s Andante cantabile and Borodin’s Notturno have become favourites in their own right, and exist in arrangements for every possible combination of instruments. But there is more to these works than the slow movements: throughout each quartet there is a wealth of melodic invention, rhythmic vitality and lyric fleetness which the Escher’s know how to exploit to the full.
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