Round midnight: Dutilleux, Merlin, Schoenberg (Erato)

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With the fadeout of two landmark string quartets – Germany’s Artemis in disarray and America’s Emersons to retirement – France’s Quatuor Ebène probably head the current list of the world’s best. Four crack musicians who play standing up and are forever pushing out boundaries, their album releases are always an event and often a surprise.

This new recording pairs two nocturnal masterpieces – Henri Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit and Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Dutilleux goes down the Bartok path of things that go squeak in the night. Schoenberg listens in to illicit lovers in the woods. Both works arouse fear and trepidation. Both eventually allay fear with a rush of sheer beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a lovelier account than this of Ainsi la nuit, and that’s saying some. Dutilleux, not a show-pony composer, demands the listener’s time and concentration, rewarding the investment with a range of seemingly impossible sounds.

In the Schoenberg, joined by violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, the Ebènes contrive a Wagnerian sonority in which love and death are inextricable and the outcome matters less than the means of getting there.

So how does one link two pieces of such strong and different character? Cellist Raphael Merlin provides a solution with original quartet arrangements of four after-dark American classics – Moon River, Night and Day, Stella by Starlight and Round Midnight. It’s razzle-dazzle entertainment. Keep it by your bedside.


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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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