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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Skyros Quartet, Introspective Odyssey, Quartets by Britten, Turina, Sibelius

Three fine quartet works from the early 20th century by composers known more for their work in other configurations? That would aptly describe the Skyros Quartet's Introspective Odyssey (Navona 6005). The ensemble gives us luminous, first-rate performances of Benjamin Britten's "Three Divertimenti" (1936), Josquin Turina's "La Oracion del Torero" (1925), and Jean Sibelius's "String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 56, 'Voces Intimae'" (1909).

All three works have not necessarily been in the spotlight much in recent times. The Turina is brief, flamenco inspired with impressionistic touches, very delightfully direct. The Britten work is from his student days, but shows us a composer already well on his way to developing a personal, very original voice and gives us a good early view of what was fast-becoming his tempered modern outlook. The Sibelius, as so properly and subtly done by the Skyros Quartet on this recording, shows us especially well the intimate, reflective side of Sibelius, already moving from romanticism to Sibelius's own inimitable blend of impressionistic and post-impressionistic sound worlds, to the special Northern-European style he constructed out of a combination of personal lyrical inspiration and the folk echoes of his native Finland.

To hear all three of these works so well done is a rare treat. The Skyros Quartet make more of the music than some others have done. They take to each piece with a ravishing, articulate, sonically appealing approach that has passion more than sentiment, fully coherent phrasing and a sort of introspective reading that is true to the album's title. They give you plenty of reasons to appreciate the works anew.

For all these reasons I applaud the Skyros Quartet heartily. These are performances for our times. The music speaks readily and eloquently. Recommended!

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