Windermere String Quartet; Elizabeth Loewen Andrews, violin; Michelle Odorico, violin; Anthony Rapoport, viola; Laura Jones, cello
Pipistrelle Music, PIP 1216, 71 min 22 s.
With Inner Lanscapes, the Windermere String Quartet shows how far they’ve come since their 2012 debut The Golden Age of String Quartets, which featured the Classical masters: Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart. This disc features a commission by Canadian composer Robert Rival, Traces of a Silent Landscape, which was inspired by the Beethoven and Mendelssohn quartets on either side. The group plays on Classical period instruments, a bit lighter in tone perhaps, but no less capable of expression.
The album opens on familiar territory with Beethoven’s Quartet No. 11 in F minor, op. 95. It’s the only quartet that he gave a name, “Quartetto Serioso.” The Windermere Quartet is in fine form here with a clear dramatic vision and dexterous pacing of the gestures that form each movement. Inspired by snowshoeing in Algonquin Park, Rival’s four-movement Traces of a Silent Landscape begins with a measured fugal texture – more evocative of the fugues of the Romantics than Bach (both the Beethoven and Mendelssohn quartets have fugal slow movements) – with a long climax. Each movement explores an aspect of wintery stillness in nature. It’s effective writing and definitely worth a listen. Mendelssohn’s Quartet in A minor op. 13, like many of his works, was heavily influenced by Beethoven. Here, the Adagio stands out for the subtle treatment of colours and textures.
While everything was acceptable on the recording, and there were quite a few lovely moments, a few things separate this three-star from a four, namely the final cut could have done with a little more polish: crisper attacks and more immaculate intonation.