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Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
String Quartet No. 1, Op.5 (1912) [29:40]
Clarinet Sonatine, Op.100 (1927) [8:58]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
La Oración del Torero (1925) [7:45]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1941-2) [9:31]
WXQR Quartet
Herbert Tichman (clarinet)
Ruth Budnevich (piano)
rec. c. 1951-55

This is an interesting restoration of two 1950s LPs. The first is a Nixa disc of quartets by Milhaud and Turina and the second, sourced from Concert Hall H18, picks up the Milhaud theme by including his Clarinet Sonatine and adding its disc-mate, Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata.

The WQXR Quartet consisted of Harry Glickman and Hugo Fiorato, violins, Jack Braunstein, viola and Harvey Shapiro, cello. The group was founded by Fiorato in the spring of 1947 and performed on the radio station, from which they took their name, for sixteen years. Of the quartet Harvey Shapiro is doubtless the best remembered. He had earlier been in the elite ensemble organised by William Primrose under his own name, with Josef Gingold and Oscar Shumsky the illustrious violinists.

The two WQXR recordings around this time were made for Polymusic and picked up by Nixa (the other one included the Franck Quartet). Theirs was the first recording of Milhaud’s rather Ravelian Quartet No.1, Op.5, which he dedicated to Paul Cezanne, and though the studio acoustic is somewhat dry – the lower strings don’t sound especially refulgent, the violin tone can turn a bit strident - it does little to mask the excellent intonation and ensemble virtues of the WQXR. Incidents are excellently characterised, from the pastoral idyll to the March themes of the opening movement and the beautifully calibrated, lightly bowed second movement. They reserve greater depth of tone for the Grave, alternating warmth with its more truculent element. Rhythmic vitality is the name of the game in the finale.

They take a lithe view of Turina’s La Oración del Torero, its evocative romanticism tempered by a more streamlined approach and that dry recorded sound. Highly accomplished playing, nevertheless.

Milhaud’s Sonatine, with its spiky, terse outer movements framing a beautifully lyrical slow one is played by the husband-and-wife duo of Herbert Tichman and Ruth Budnevich. They are loyal exponents of the work’s big contrasts and equally honour the Bernstein’s Sonata. Its Andantino movement, with its fluent stage musical cum jazz lexicon, is played in a brightly extrovert fashion. Dated to around 1951 this is a decent sounding mono.

Milhaud gets the lion’s share of this 56-minute disc; the Turina and Bernstein pieces are attractive additions for the historically inclined collector. Above all, perhaps, we can remember a little-recorded but fine quartet, the WQXR.

No notes as usual from Forgotten Records but plentiful web links are included.

Jonathan Woolf

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