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Classical - Released March 25, 2013 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Hi-Res Audio
The multinational Chiaroscuro Quartet promises performances of music of the Classical era "on period instruments informed by a historical approach." This tells you less than it would if applied to Baroque music, but the features of Classical-period historical string performance are in evidence here: vibrato is kept to a minimum, and the scooping accents possible on later instruments are scrupulously weeded out. The biggest surprise, however, would have been possible even played on contemporary instruments: the String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, of Beethoven, designated by Beethoven as "Serioso," is given an interpretation with the seriousness radically scaled down. The group seems to be after a revisionist interpretation that holds that the violent qualities in this quartet were placed there by Romantic after-the-fact thinking and even later by psychoanalysis of Beethoven's difficult life around this time. The music is tense but light, with the really startling harmonic developments in the opening movement treated not as utterances of emotional torture but as little flashes of psychedelic light. The slow movements of all three works on the album are marvelous, with the players perfectly coordinated and the music seeming to breathe like some living creature, the lack of vibrato making the individual instruments difficult to pick out. And the Mozart Adagio and Fugue in C minor for string quartet, K. 546, and String Quartet in E flat major, K. 428 (a work also often given post-facto Romantic intensity) are less startling on first hearing. The Beethoven is one of those performances far enough outside the norm that it's safe to say some will think it's brilliant, some will hate it. But neither group will be able to claim it's not well thought out.