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Die Kunst der Fuge › Quartetto Bernini
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Quartetto Bernini

String quartet with baroque instruments
Amiata, 2001; Recorded October 1999, Rome.
Menu: autograph score, without Fuga a 2 Clav.
Appendix: alt. version of Canon al rovescio; unfinished fugue; Choral.
Total Time: 67:21

An interesting paradox, and a beautiful recording.

A string quartet, played on baroque instruments? The Bernini Quartet plays perfectly in best HIP (Historically Informed Performance) or PP tradition: shiny, non-vibrating tone; the longer notes with a tender crescendo-decrescendo, and very little ornaments here and there.

Why it doesn’t sound really baroque? Probably because our historically informed ears don’t know the pure string quartet without any traditional continuo instruments. But the question should be rather: why SHOULD IT sound baroque? It’s like reconstructing the Eiffel tower by pre-industrial carpentry techniques - the result could be interesting, even beautiful, and even organic as-if-it-had-been-planned-this-way, but should not be claimed as the original version.

Whether this instrumentation is meant as a reconstruction or not, it does sound organically and beautiful - a really extraordinary, well prepared string quartet version. The coda-less endings of the autograph version somehow fit better to the consort-like impression. Large overtone background, atmospheric density along with a lamento gesture in slower movements (Cp. 3, 5 + 10), without any fear of the dissonant assemblings. Cp.7 molto cantabile; Cp.8 unusually fast: andante espressivo. A gem: the two versions of Canon al rovescio - Amati violin and Tecchler violoncello in an intimate dialogue of transcendental beauty. Here the conception of changing roles becomes evident: first a violin solo with cello accompaniment, then vice versa. (For a few seconds, a little irritation on track 12: A mouse? A bird? An angel? Or a sudden sigh from the violinist?)

Despite some wrong tracking and timing indications, a nice small booklet (Italian & English) in a tastefully designed slim cardboard package.

Recommendation: in any sense, except for all who do not appreciate baroque strings. In this version, definitely a minor key work; a night music for melancholy, candlelight caressing and dreaming.

(March 2002)