Monday, February 18, 2013

The Cleveland Quartet
"Debussy, Ravel: String Quartets" (CD)

My bias will show, I'm certain of it.  I can't help it. 

I studied chamber music for years with Peter Salaff, the second violinist of the Cleveland Quartet.  His was amongst only a handful of experiences I've had of teachers who actually did what they told us to do.  The experience of watching him demonstrate in lessons or play with colleagues in recital was amazing. 

I think the thing I learned the most from Mr. Salaff (aside from the obvious things like rhythm, intonation and ensemble) was the delicate art of texture.  This is a brilliant recording to listen to for quartet textures.

Just like an impressionist painting is out of focus, composers emulated this technique with their music.  The finest musicians are capable of re-creating these fuzzy images with a precise balance of bow speed and contact point without sacrificing ensemble.  It's very very difficult to accomplish, and its among the reasons why this is amongst my favorite quartet recordings.  Ensemble and intonation are never sacrificed, but the range of colors and flavors they accomplish are the widest range I've ever heard.  I can practically hear Mr. Salaff issuing gentle orders to me about how to accomplish such a mystery.

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