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CD Review

Ernest Bloch

  • Quartet for Strings #1 (1916)
  • Quartet for Strings #2 (1945)
  • Quartet for Strings #3 (1952)
  • Quartet for Strings #4 (1953)
The Griller String Quartet
Decca Original Masters 4756071 147m ADD
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It is one of those inexplicable stories in the recording world that these outstanding tapes of the Griller Quartet's legendary Bloch String Quartets had to remain so long to appear on CD. They are indeed the stuff of legend as the listener would immediately notice, a window on an age where the Jewish identity was still in its infancy and struggling to find its way as a fully-fledged nation after the holocaust of war.

The First Quartet is one of the giants of the repertoire and in its four movements, it signifies the hopes and expressions of the Jewish people. The mournful opening adagio is extremely haunting, images of concentration camps, trains and ghettoes speedily passed through my head as I sat transfixed listening to the Griller's superbly inflexed interpretation. The work lasts almost an hour and is replete with bubbling surface tension that the Grillers convey with superb authority.

In the Second, we have a more mellow interpretation although the angst that Bloch subtly conveys is never far away. This is again in four movements and lasts just over half an hour whilst the Third is the shortest of the four at 25 minutes. A key feature of Bloch's quartet writing is his long and sustained melodic lines an the fiery, occasionally dashing Finales that are epic swaggers, rather magically played by the Griller Quartet. This is recognizable in the mystical Fourth Quartet which is also very nationalistically minded especially in the beautiful Andante.

In a short but admirably succinct note, Tully Potter says that Bloch 'has been nowhere near as well interpreted by the few subsequent ensembles that have championed his music'. After two and a half hours of blistering playing (in superb mono sound), I was nodding in agreement and I'm sure those who will purchase this important historical reissue will be doing the same.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech