Although the Sorrel’s new viola-player Sarah-Jane Bradley makes a strong impression in the prominent solos of Quartet No. 13, the performance as a whole doesn’t achieve the same convincing integration of the contrasting tempi in this chilling one-movement work as manifested in the recent highly acclaimed Emerson Quartet recording on DG.
Similar structural problems are evident in the Debussy Quartet’s second movement of the Twelfth in negotiating the difficult changes of mood, tempo, colour and articulation in the central slow section. In general, this highly talented French ensemble focuses its attention on achieving a blended tonal colouring sometimes at the expense of sharply etched phrasing and articulation. Such an approach works marvellously well in the opening movement of the First Quartet where the intense vibrato of the Emerson Quartet sounds over-fussy. At the same time, the greater subtlety of nuance and muscular power of the Emerson Quartet makes their performance of the Fifth far more compelling.