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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

The Equinox String Quartet - Camille Saint-Saens: Two String Quartets

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This week, a "complete CD" downloaded from the original MP3.COM, promoting Eroica Classical Recording artists, The Equinox String Quartet.

Its members, Lun Jiang and Quan Jiang, violins; Ariel Rudiakov, viola; and Ann Kim; violincello, have studied at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Yale University; with some of the most prominent names in chamber music, including members of the Juilliard String Quartet, the Tokyo String Quartet, and cellist Nathaniel Rosen.

The Equinox String Quartet performs a wide range of repertoire from classical standards to contemporary pieces, specializing in the identification of new and unusual works by great composers. Their debut recording, released in December, 1997, features two String Quartets by Camille Saint-Saëns, his opp. 112 and 153. These are both mature works, written when he was in his sixties and eighties respectively; the second, in particular, exudes the melancholy nostalgia associated with old age. His love of Bach and Mendelssohn is manifested in the frequent archaic and neo-classical allusions in his music and a love of the fugue, a favourite form which appears several time at different points in these works. Yet Saint-Saëns' sound-world is clearly not entirely retrospective; it contains many Impressionistic touches, unsurprising from a composer whose career spanned the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth.

Despite having already written a good deal of chamber music, Op. 112 was Saint-Saëns' first foray into the medium of the string quartet. It begins in a melancholy vein, sombre and formal; there is always a note of anxiety throughout. In more agitated passages a tentative, stuttering syncopated figure alternates with the slow theme before they resolve into spacious calm. Finally, the mood of agitation returns in the last movement which closes uneasily with a frantic passage for the violin.

The Op.153 is sometimes described as "a sunny, playful work" but that is really only half the story. It opens in neo-classical, Mozartian vein: momentum and elegance in a serene G major with some arresting shifts of key. The slow movement employs some exotic melody and harmony, perhaps the result of the composer's familiarity with North Africa. After the slow, contemplative introductory Interlude, so typical of Saint-Saëns' classical period forebears, cheerful, scampering fugal passages alternate with the reflective slow theme to close emphatically in a witty combination of plucked fifths and ascending chords, ending on the tonic.

Happy Listening!

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 - 1921)
  • String Quartet No.1 in E-Minor, Op.112
  • String Quartet No.2 in G Major, Op.153

The Equinox String Quartet
Eroica Classical Recordings JDT3005 (Released, December 1997)
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Downloaded from MP3.COM - 3 May 2002
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August 23 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Rachmaninov Festival Part 4" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more August 23 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.