French composer Felicien David [1810-1876] wrote four string quartets in a Romantic style. The fourth was unfinished, with only one movement completed. David had a difficult early childhood. Both his mother and father died before he was six and he was raised by his sister Antoinette. There is a superb booklet with this CD that spends seven pages just discussing his life; a fascinating story. There is also a comprehensive musical analysis of the works.
SQ No. 2 is in four movements. The first is marked allegretto grazioso (graceful, smooth) It has a sumptuous opening; it just glitters. The tempo slips into a triplet timing as the composer spins out very attractive melodies. The movement transitions through many different passages, all rich in melody and harmony. Sometimes the cello dominates; at other times the mood is conversational with all instruments making a contribution. The opening theme returns with an elegance that is quite lovely. The finale lifts the intensity and it concludes with a flourish.
The second movement is an andante , and, a stately masterpiece. For seven minutes we are treated to appealing melodies at a measured tempo. It gently moves through differing moods. The instruments come and go, sometimes one echoing another. It illustrates the Romantic quality of being able sustain a mood with many different variations. Alluring themes come and go, are harmonised and reharmonised. This is wonderful music.
Movement three is another allegretto. It begins with an ethnic folk-like melody, reminding me of Grieg. This melody is repeated with more rhythmic emphasis. Variations occur regularly but it constantly returns to the opening melody, harmonised in a different manner. I find the folksy quality a bit unusual, especially the repeats, but there is some marvellous music here.
The final movement is allegretto risoluto (resolute, determined). It is an uninhibited, folk-like romp. Again it features variations before returning to the main theme which is very propulsive. The last two movements are quite brief, following on the heels of the longer, more substantial first two movements.
Overall, this is a very charming piece.
On to the other two pieces. String Quartet No. 1 in F minor is another most pleasing work, it features a wonderful andante movement. The one surviving movement from String Quartet No. 4 in E minor is a promise that was never fulfilled.
This CD is performed by Quartuor Cambini-Paris and is freely available. It is on Spotify if you wish to sample it.
Some of the quartets are also on YouTube.
Listenability: Romantic charm.