Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sibelius' early Quartet in B-flat Op. 4 (1890) is quite lovely and well worth hearing. It contains some striking anticipations of the composer we know and love, particularly in the harmonies of its slow movement and in its imaginative use of string texture (pizzicato especially). It also shows something of that instinctive feeling for movement that the mature composer developed to such a phenomenal degree. The Tempera Quartet performs both this work and the later Voces Intimae with notable liveliness and evident enthusiasm. In the latter piece, the clean ensemble and vigorous rhythmic profiling prevent the music from sounding dour, particularly in the central slow movement (from which the quartet's nickname derives). However, on
occasion--in fortes--the tone of the violins turns a bit crude as the players dig into the notes with excessive vehemence.
The opening piece on the disc, a 12-minute Adagio, features a few attractive but not really memorable ideas. It ends somewhat ambiguously (nothing new when it comes to Sibelius), here suggestive of more to follow--but what that might have been we will probably never know. A tiny fragment of the original ending of Voces Intimae only a few seconds long fulfills BIS's intention to record every scrap of music that Sibelius wrote; but the disc concludes sonorously with the Andante festivo, taken at a good clip and sounding less solemn than usual in this reduced format. As suggested with respect to the major works, the Tempera Quartet handles all of this music expertly, and BIS's sonics are the most consistently excellent in the business. Do try the B-flat quartet: its quality will surprise you.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Adagio in D minor by Jean Sibelius
Tempera String Quartet
Written: 1890; Finland
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