France's Quatuor Ebène has been known for its classical-pop fusion experiments. Here they stick with classical string quartet pieces, but their style and choice of music is still plenty unusual.
France's Quatuor Ebène has been known for its classical-pop fusion experiments. Here they stick with classical string quartet pieces, but their style and choice of music is still plenty unusual. The chief repertory attraction here is Fanny Mendelssohn's String Quartet in E flat major, composed in 1834. This work, the composer's only string quartet, is not usually included in comparisons of music by Felix Mendelssohn and his older sister, but it deserves to be better known. It is clearly something of an exercise in mastering Beethoven's style -- hear the fugal central section of the second-movement Allegretto (track 6), for example, whose clear inspiration is the Scherzo of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 -- but in spite of this has a strong undercurrent of suppressed emotion. The work opens in harmonic ambiguity that is reflected in small moments of tension throughout.
The work's appeal resides in that duality of exercise and strong feeling, and the Quatuor Ebène's high-intensity performance brings it out effectively. The work is short, but here it has a rather explosive quality. In the two quartets by Felix Mendelssohn you may find the quartet either bracingly tough or rather overbearing, but there are moments where both camps will agree: hear the live-wire tension in the opening explosion of the finale of the String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80. This is a must-have for those interested in Fanny Mendelssohn, and it's well worth sampling and considering for general string quartet listeners.