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53 Studies on Chopin Études 1
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Ludwig THUILLE (1861-1907)
String Quartet No.1 in A major (1878) [25:29]
Quartettsatz (1879) [11:46]
String Quartet No.2 in G major (1881) [24:30]
Allegri Quartet
rec. May 2012, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex
CHAMPS HILL CHRCD077 [61:44]

The Allegri Quartet has a very mellifluous approach to Thuille's early quartets - though in a sense all Thuille is early, as he died at so grievously young an age. Their delicate and refined approach brings out the almost impossibly genial opening of the A major work, written in Innsbruck when he was a mere 16 years old, and thus preceding his studies with Rheinberger. Dedicated to his friend Richard Strauss this four-movement work is steeped in classical procedure, and reveals an enthusiasm for Beethoven in the slow movement, which is lightly hymnal and impressively structured. He shows he can throw in a dancing scherzo and a broadly sonata form finale which marries fluid writing and good development. He also has the confidence to bring the quartet to a triumphantly abrupt end.

The Quartettsatz is unpublished. Composed in 1879, this is its first recording, and it's a very competent sonata-allegro, presumably modelled after Schubert's. The single-movement span allows Thuille a fluidity and paragraphal flow that he hadn't quite been able to obtain in the earlier quartet, attractive though the 'prentice work was. This, by contrast, is less diffuse and more concentrated. A very lyrical work, with attractive themes, and nearly twelve minutes in length it makes for warmly attractive listening, especially in so sympathetic a reading as this.

Thuille's G major Quartet followed two years later in 1881 but it was never completed and so we are left with a three-movement torso, bereft of a finale. This is a pity as it shows a distinct advance on the earlier quartet, and a greater sophistication in matters of construction in particular. The Allegri's airy style does well by it with hints of Mendelssohn and even - to me at least - Smetana, whose own First Quartet had been written in 1880, though I'm not sure if Thuille would have known it. The sinuously ingratiating Allegri enjoy the Menuetto in particular, I sense, where the folkloric drone episode is greatly enjoyable, where the rhythm swings delightfully, and the lyric temperature is always high. The slow movement is bathed in intense elegance, but there things have to stop.

Minor though these works are, they receive affectionate performances and stylistically apt ones from the Allegri, characteristically well recorded in the Music Room, Champs Hill.

Jonathan Woolf