Guarneri String Quartet -Ravel/Debussy/Fauré 
Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio
Written by Richard Elen   
Tuesday, 25 September 2001

performance 9
sound 8
released 2001

This recording of the Guarneri String Quartet playing Ravel, Debussy and Faure is another fine release from Surrounded By Entertainment. This exquisite disc is for DVD-Audio players only, with no compromise or backwards compatibility (although a CD version is available). Available mixes are 24/96 surround and 24/192 stereo. On the DVD-ROM area, the disc includes the "Scrapbook," a photo album spanning the quartet's 37-year career, plus biographies on each composer and the quartet, a complete discography, session photos documenting the creation of the project, and Web links. The total playing time is over 75 minutes.

Formed in 1965, the Guarneri String Quartet has an extremely impressive history, with initial recordings on RCA Red Seal and later various well-known recordings with Arturo Rubinstein. Max Wilcox, the producer at RCA at the time, was brought on board by James Mageras, founder of Surrounded by Entertainment in 2000, 26 years after his last Guarneri recording. Wilcox's first wish was to organize a new Guarneri disc for the new label. This album, recorded on the stage of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, is the result. A truly excellent recording it is, engineered by Dirk Sobotka, and featuring Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley on violins, Michael Tree on viola and David Soyer on cello. Soyer has announced his retirement, which means that this will be the final release with the Guarneri’s original lineup.

Ravel’s only string quartet, in F major, written in 1903, is apparently often paired, as it is here, with Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Opus 10, written 10 years earlier. This disc places these pieces with Gabriel Fauré’s 1924 String Quartet in E Minor, the composer’s final work. It is an inspired combination, ideally suited to allow the listener to simply sit back and enjoy the music. There are no distractions from the pure performance and exquisite recording quality to be found on this disc. Onscreen, you can either look at the title card or view a collection of monochrome photographs of the recording sessions.

It’s the independent record companies that are going the extra mile when it comes to high-resolution disc formats, especially DVD-A. They deserve our support, and with high-quality productions like this, they are likely to get it.

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